Hundreds of Montreal students stuck at home waiting for Quebec to approve English eligibility

Elisa Silva is originally from Brazil, but lives with her aunt and uncle in Montreal hoping to attend high school in Canada.

The 15-year-old was due to start school last Friday. She was enrolled in FACE, a specialized primary and secondary school in the city centre.

She chose the school for her art program because she loves to paint.

But instead, she’s sitting at her aunt and uncle’s house doing nothing.

“I don’t know when I’m going to study. I don’t know when my school is going to start,” she said.

She is waiting for her English eligibility application to be approved. Quebec’s Charter of the French Language limits those who can attend public school in English to those whose family also attended school in English.

But there’s a backlog of students waiting for approval, so Silva watched TV and studied French to pass the time.

His uncle, Gabriel Michaud, took him in for six months and helped him with the process, but he was frustrated by the delay in having his certification approved.

“We’re not talking about a tai chi class that some 40-something is trying to enroll in,” he said. “It’s high school and right now we have a student sitting at home doing nothing.”

EMSB president blames ministry for delay

Joe Ortona, president of the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), said Silva was not the only student waiting.

The Ministry of Education has approximately 280 applications to approve for the EMSB.

“The problem is on the ministry’s side,” Ortona said.

“We send the documents to the ministry, but by law the ministry must approve their eligibility in English before we can take them. Until we get that, we are not allowed to accept them.”

Gabriel Michaud, left, says his niece, Elisa Silva, center, should already be allowed to attend public school in English, but they are stuck waiting. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

Ortona said he didn’t know what the delay was, but the department was “very disorganized” between that and recent negotiations with bus drivers that nearly left the children stranded with no way to get to the school.

“It’s unfortunate because we want to take these kids,” Ortona said. “We don’t want to turn anyone away.

Lester B. Pearson gets in the same boat

The Lester B. Pearson School Board has experienced some minor delays in processing times for eligibility applications, according to spokesperson Darren Becker.

“For example, the council sent several cases during the week of August 8 for which we still do not have decisions. Currently, we have more than 70 such cases,” he said in a statement. E-mail.

“We will continue to work closely with the Department of Education to try to resolve these requests quickly to ensure that students can receive the highest quality education as quickly as possible.”

According to the ministry, processing takes 5 days

School boards are responsible for forwarding requests for teaching eligibility to the Ministry of Education, which then analyzes each request before making a decision, said Bryan St-Louis, spokesperson for the ministry.

The department may request additional information about an application, he said.

“The department does not control the timeline for the transmission of the request by the school board,” St-Louis said in an email.

“The average processing time is about five working days when the file is complete.

Until applications are approved, students like Silva are out of luck.

Michaud said he was now considering a private school for his niece, but it would cost the family twice as much as expected.

“It’s a disaster,” Michaud said.

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