Alfred Moses: Enrolment of Students in French First Language Programs

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, I committed to reviewing the 2008 Ministerial Directive – Enrolment of Students in French First Language Programs. In conducting our review, we undertook a comprehensive engagement process targeting the rights holder population in the North. A total of 140 people responded either to our survey, attended a session in Hay River, or attended a session in Yellowknife. We reviewed legislation, current GNWT policies, and the responses from the stakeholder engagements and survey and conducted a jurisdictional scan. The objective of the review was to have a Directive in place by the start of the 2016-2017 school year to avoid a protracted process and enable the Commission scolaire francophone to utilize a new Directive without delay.

During stakeholder engagement, two overlapping views were expressed by stakeholders. The first was a strict interpretation, focusing on exclusive admission of Section 23 Charter rights holders, and the second was a broader perspective, focusing on the open admission of non-rights holders. I feel the balance established by the new Directive addresses the issues raised from each perspective and continues to help grow and sustain the culture of the school and community. The Directive allows all non-rights holders eligible under the Directive to be admitted until the physical capacity of the school reaches 85%. This translates into opportunity for population growth in the NWT’s French first language schools where each of the two schools is below capacity and ensures space for future rights-holders, as required by law.

The new Ministerial Directive Enrolment of Students in French First Language Programs came into effect in August, 2016, with three streams of admission for eligible non-rights holder parents:

  • Reacquisition – the parent would have been a rights holder but for his or her lack of opportunity to attend a French first language school or his or her parent’s lack of opportunity to attend a French first language school;
  • Non-citizen francophone – the parent meets the criteria of Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms except for the fact that he or she is not a Canadian citizen; and.
  • New Immigrant – the parent is an immigrant to Canada, whose child upon arrival, does not speak English or French and is enrolling in a Canadian school for the first time.

The first three requests for admission have been reviewed, resulting in approval of all three applications under the Reacquisition Stream of the Directive.

Mr. Speaker, the new NWT Directive has been compared with the recently renewed Directive in the Yukon. The eligibility criteria established in the NWT and Yukon are very similar. The Yukon policy identifies two types of admission: Admission by Right and Admission by Permission. The Admission by Right categories are all established by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and include First Language, Primary Schools Instruction, and Family Continuity.

There are seven admission streams under the Yukon policy, all but one are closely aligned with the renewed NWT Directive. The one stream that does not exist under the NWT Directive is the Yukon category of Anglophone.

The Commission scolaire francophone Territoires du Nord-Ouest continues to have the authority, as delegated by me, to grant immediate admission to students who are rights-holders under Section 23 of the Charter. I have retained administrative control over the three streams of admission outside the criteria defined by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Speaker, the francophone community is a significant and distinctive part of the cultural fabric of the NWT. Northern francophones have a vibrant and rich culture which certainly begins in the home, but is enhanced by the education they receive in environments dedicated to preserving and celebrating their language and culture. We want to ensure they have the ability and the capacity to do that.  

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.