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Easing Bill 101’s requirements for public education not an option: Quebec education minister

Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge. Friday June 28, 2019. Sylvain Trudeau / Global News

Speaking Tuesday, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said he has no plans to soften language requirements for public education in Bill 101, Quebec’s Charter of the French language.

The comment comes after Marlene Jennings, a former Liberal MP who was appointed as trustee of the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), suggested the possibility of making allowances for new immigrants whose first language is English to attend English school.

Jennings made the comments Monday evening after announcing the school board had decided to close three schools in the north east of Montreal.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board to close 3 east end schools

She noted that while enrolment in the west end of the city is growing, the north east has seen declining rates over the last 20 years.

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Jennings blamed the school closures on the exodus of the English population and called on the government to ease restrictions for attending English schools.

Under Bill 101, all children must attend French institutions until the end of high school, whether in a public school setting or a subsidized private school.

The law, however, does not apply to non-subsidized private institutions.

READ MORE: Fact file: What is Bill 101?

Children whose parents, siblings or the child themselves have completed most of their elementary schooling in English in Canada can register in an English school in Quebec.

Likewise, children can register if a relative — including, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles — attended English school in Quebec prior to Aug. 27, 1977.

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Bill 101 was adopted on Aug. 26, 1977. Its purpose was to bolster the French language and make it the sole official language of business and government in Quebec.

Roberge admitted that closing three schools was no doubt a difficult decision for the EMSB to make, but disagreed with Jennings as to loosening restrictions on new immigrants.

“This is her opinion but we won’t go that way,” Roberge told reporters.

“We will respect Bill 101 and newcomers will continue to have to go to learn French in the French schools.”

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