Quebec Blocks Access to Education for Children without Status

"City without Borders" banner from community demonstration (J. Lapierre)
"Education without Borders" banner from community demonstration (J. Lapierre)

“Education without Borders” banner from community demonstration (J. Lapierre)

By J. Lapierre

The right to education for children without status in Quebec comes with a $5,000 price tag.

This past July, the Quebec government shared a set of guidelines with Quebec school boards for dealing with children with precarious immigration status. While the guidelines expanded the number of children who could access free education, students without status are forced to pay $5,000 to $6,000 in school fees.

“The situation isn’t complicated” Jaggi Singh from Solidarity Across Borders told the crowd of people who had gathered outside an elementary school where a Montreal school board was holding one of its meetings.

“We want children to be able to access education no matter what their status is.”

It was the seventh time people had come to demand that the school board allow children without immigration status to be able to attend public school.

Some school boards have refused students entry if they do not pay the fees upfront.

“There’s a family with two kids in a school board in the east end. They tried to go to school, but they were refused. The same thing happened twice with families in a school board in the south shore.” said Singh.

Other school boards seem content to simply send a bill.

One of the speakers relayed that one of the commissioners at the meeting told her that “the parents can simply rip up the bill.” However, receiving the bills in the first place is unsettling for parents.

The group Solidarity Across Borders has encouraged parents to register their children and has offered to support who want to challenge paying the fees.

As the group of people outside began to discuss how to pressure the school boards and the minister of education, a representative from the board was sent to meet with the crowd. He quickly became upset seeing that people are organizing and he pleaded with the group to “wait for the results of the board meeting.”

“It’s been two years!” someone from the crowd shouted.

The Quebec government has been particularly slow on this question. Both the United States and the Ontario government were forced to confirm the rights of children without status to free public school education in the 1980s.

Solidarity Across Borders has been campaigning for over two years now. And parents began organizing many years before that.

Charging parents without immigration status, most of whom are working low wage, insecure jobs because of their lack of documentation, for the education of their child is outrageous and inhumane.  This is just another example of governments in Canada and Quebec attempting to squeeze working people, especially those who are most vulnerable.