English school boards in Quebec accepting Ukrainian students who receive language exception

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Two English school boards in Quebec say they have begun accepting Ukrainian children who have been granted language exceptions to study at English schools in the province.

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) confirmed Friday that students temporarily residing in Quebec whose parents hold temporary work permits are eligible to receive education in English.

In a statement sent to Global News, EMSB chair Joe Ortona said the school board is open for Ukrainian families fleeing their war-torn country to apply for eligibility under the applicable provision of the Charter of the French Language — Bill 101.

“To date, there has been no change in the Quebec government’s position regarding eligibility for English-language education,” a statement from the LBPSB says. “Like any refugee, Ukrainian refugees must therefore apply for eligibility under the applicable provisions of the Charter.”

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LBPSB spokesperson Darren Becker said five students who have temporary resident status and not refugee status have so far met the requirements to enrol in one of its English schools.

As for the EMSB, the school board says it has accepted more than a dozen students who meet the requirements under the Regulation respecting the exemption from the application of the first paragraph of section 72 of the Charter of the French language that may be granted to children staying in Québec temporarily.

“While the Charter of the French Language does have a humanitarian clause allowing for the admission to the English school system under exceptional circumstances, this is not the route these newly enrolled students took, but it should be,” said Ortona.

The EMSB says its board is ready to accept Ukrainian students “immediately on a humanitarian basis.”

In March, Premier François Legault’s government said Ukrainian children who come to the province would have to attend public schools in French.

Legault suggested the government might be able to support English-speaking Ukrainian families for a temporary time, “but as you know, people coming into Quebec have to send their children to French school,” he told reporters at the time.

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The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) has been encouraging the provincial government over the last few months to “show compassion” and consider giving exemptions to some young Ukrainians arriving in the province.

“These refugees have been through a great deal,” QESBA executive director Russell Copeman said in March.

“Some of them who arrive in Quebec may, of course, have children of school age. We wanted to signal to the Quebec government and to the broader Quebec society that we are willing to help in receiving and giving [their children] a good quality education.”
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