The new law replaces the old Bill 104, which was rejected by the Supreme Court, eliminating a loophole whereby children, not eligible for English schooling, could win that right by attending a private English school for as little as one year and then switching to a public English school.
The replacement law, Bill 103, is different from its predecessor in that it extends the required period of private English instruction to three years, as well as making students and their families jump through additional hoops to qualify for public English education.
Convoluted as it is, it might just pass muster with the Supreme Court.
The original law, Bill 104, passed by the separatist Parti Quebecois back in 2002, was enacted in reaction to the approximately 500 students a year that availed themselves of this 'secret passage' to get into English public school. The English school boards, desperate for students, turned a blind eye to what was and remains an underhanded way of getting around the law. Not only French language radicals, but the average Joe is displeased that these students are essentially buying their way into English school.
While polls indicate the majority of Quebeckers believe in free educational choice, the idea of rich people circumventing Bill 101 or any other law with money is unacceptable to almost everyone.
All of this wouldn't be necessary if the government had listened and reacted fairly to the English school boards complaint that falling birthrates coupled with the effects of Bill 101 have contributed to a precipitous decline in enrolment in English schools.
Quebeckers (both Anglophone and Francophone) don't produce enough babies to keep the population stable and so immigrants are required to stave off population decline.
But if all these immigrants are forced into French schools only, it means that English school enrolment is bound to decline. It doesn't take a genius to figure this out, despite of all the phony-baloney statistics produced to the contrary, by language extremists like Mario Beaulieu.
It is a simple and incontrovertible fact, something that even blockheads in government should be able to grasp.
Anglo school boards need more students or they will die, it's as simple as that. If the government is okay with that scenario, than the government should say so.
If the government believes that the English community has a right to a viable school system, it needs to provide a way to top up enrolment. Not drastically, just enough to maintain the system as it is.
The government could have avoided all this unpleasantness by negotiating a deal with the English school boards that would stop this back door practice voluntarily, in exchange for allowing other students to fill the void and keep the English student population stable.
It would have avoided a humiliating loss in the Supreme court.
One of the simplest and fairest ways to do this would be to give a Bill 101 exemption to all immigrant children who come from English-speaking countries like the USA, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and English speaking island nations of the Caribbean. These students already speak English as their first language and forcing them into French schools doesn't make much sense anyways. There aren't that many immigrants in this category to begin with, less than 400 English families immigrate to Quebec each year from these countries. They would probably produce roughly 500 potential students, a neat compromise! It might also open the door to more Anglos immigrating to Quebec. As of now Anglophones avoid Quebec as a destination of choice like the plague.
To French language militants this solution is likely less acceptable than drinking a glass of poison, but the majority of Quebeckers would probably see it as fair.
The new Bill 103 will probably cut the number of back door entries into the English school system by half, to less than 300, but for the militants, it is 300 too many. Get ready to see demonstrations and parades, as separatist and language militant leaders wax rhapsodic over the injustice and inhumanity of it all.
A general call to arms.... all over a paltry 300 students in a Province of almost eight million people.
Of course 'Uncle' Thom Mulcair and 'Smiling' Jack Layton of the NDP are front and center, joining a coalition composed of separatist and radical French groups formed to oppose the law. And so they are joining such ignoble groups as the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Conseil de la souveraineté, Parti québécois, Québec solidaire, Bloc québécois, Syndicalistes et progressistes pour un Québec libre plus the always threateningly popular Réseau de Résistance québécoise and Jeunes Patriotes du Québec.
'Smiling' Jack and 'Uncle' Thom have no interest in seeing the Quebec English school system remaining viable. Not enough votes in that, so better to join forces with the radical separatists and hope some votes will rub off. Ecch! LINK
Meanwhile, lost in all this, is the fact that at any given time there are over 10,000 students, eligible for English schooling, who are attending French schools voluntarily. Ahem.....
How ridiculous is Bill 103? Very....
As you may know the law creates a point system, with 15 as the minimum required to gain entry to English school.
A reader sent me an email detailing how the point system works. The document is in French and for those of you who can read it, have a go. It is as stupid as it looks. Check out the last pages even if you don't speak French. It lists point values. Argghhh!!!!!!!!!!
Bill 103-Point System
It's hard to believe that so much effort went into this!