THE CSF AND THE FÉDÉRATION DES PARENTS WILL APPEAL SOME ASPECTS OF THE DECISION
Richmond, October 27, 2016 – The Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (CSF), the Fédération des parents francophones de Colombie-Britannique (FPFCB) and the co-appellant parents have decided to appeal certain aspects of the decision pronounced by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
Although many aspects of the decision represent important gains for Francophones in British Columbia, after serious consideration and an in-depth analysis of the over 1600 page decision pronounced by Justice Russell, the CSF and the FPFCB agree that too many of the court’s conclusions were serious errors. Since these errors could have long term negative consequences for the francophone community in British-Columbia, the CSF, the FPFCB and the co-appellants will ask the Court of Appeal of British Columbia to correct the errors in Justice Russell’s decision, most of which fall into the three following categories.
First, the Appeal will address Justice Russell’s narrow and pessimistic approach to section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”), according to which French-language schools in British Columbia can only delay the inevitable assimilation of the Francophone community. This defeatist view permeates the entire decision. In fact, this approach to s. 23 led Justice Russell to “justify” the lack of equivalence in Greater Victoria as well as in Pemberton, since in her view, new francophone schools would have little impact on the high linguistic assimilation rates in these communities. This conclusion runs contrary to the remedial purpose of section 23 of the Charter and must be corrected.
Second, the Appeal will address Justice Russell’s equivalence analysis. In her decision, Justice Russell wrongly concluded that equivalence is determined by comparing the enrolment and school capacity of a CSF school to competing English-language schools. This approach will almost always disadvantage the linguistic minority. By focusing on “proportionality” between CSF school buildings and those of the English-language majority, Justice Russell violated the “substantive equivalence” requirement established by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Third, the Appeal will challenge Justice Russell’s conclusion that the government can successfully invoke section 1 of the Charter to justify breaches of section 23 of the Charter on the grounds that the infrastructure that section 23 guarantees to Francophones would cost too much to provide, despite British Columbia having record budget surpluses that are the envy of the rest of the Canada.
The president of the CSF, Ms. Marie-France Lapierre stated that: “The Judge found breaches of section 23 of the Charter in many of our schools and held that it is the Ministry of Education – and not the CSF – that can and must solve these problems. However, Justice Russell also painted a bleak picture of the future of Francophone communities in British Columbia, going as far as to question the purpose of section 23 of the Charter.”.
The President of the FPFCB, Ms. Marie-Pierre Lavoie, stated: “This appeal is necessary to overturn those of the Judge’s conclusions that would negatively affect negotiations between the Francophone community and the provincial government for substantively equivalent education (as opposed to only a proportionate education) throughout the province. It is imperative that her restrictive analytical approach be reversed so that the francophone community can continue to flourish”.
The Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique
Since its inception in 1995, the CSF has offered programs and educational services to encourage the full development and cultural identity of Francophone learners in the province. A partner in the development of the Francophone collective in British Columbia, the Conseil’s current enrolment totals over 5,700 students, in 37 schools – 24 of which are homogeneous French-language schools – and it serves over 1,000 communities throughout the province.
The Fédération des parents francophones de Colombie-Britannique
Founded in 1979, the FPFCB is made up of 45 preschool and school parent associations. Its mission is to assemble, represent, support, and provide the necessary tools to parents to fulfill their role as educators and to promote their engagement and participation in the creation of vibrant and exemplary Francophone environments.