Navigating Quebec’s Bill 96: Implications for Relocating Families and English Education Choices

In March 2022, Quebec introduced Bill 96, a legislative measure aimed at fortifying the French language dominance within the province. As this bill transitioned into law, its enactment brought with it a wave of regulatory adaptations still under development.

As a Canadian owned Corporate Relocation Company, provider of Immigration Support Services, and finally, a leading Canadian Destination Services provider. We felt it important to write an article about one of our most attractive Canadian provinces for assignees: Quebec. (Link to Government of Québec)

In March 2022, Quebec introduced Bill 96, a legislative measure aimed at fortifying the French language dominance within the province. As this bill transitioned into law, its enactment brought with it a wave of regulatory adaptations still under development. These ongoing changes mean that the interpretation and enforcement of Bill 96 remain fluid, leaving relocating families navigating a landscape of uncertainty, especially when it comes to children’s education in English.

The Essence of Bill 96

At its core, Bill 96 mandates that French-speaking individuals receive services in French, impacting both verbal and written communications. This presents a significant challenge for non-French speaking newcomers, who, under this legislation, may only be guaranteed government services in English for a temporary period of up to six months. Post this grace period, the expectation is to transition to French services, highlighting the government’s push towards assimilation into Quebec’s Francophone culture. Recognizing the hurdles this poses, the government offers complimentary French language courses to newcomers, although demand heavily outweighs supply.

All Points’ aside about Bill 96

All Points acknowledges the importance of supporting the French language and respects the principles behind Bill 96, recognizing its role in preserving Quebec’s Francophone culture. We understand the legislation’s intent to encourage integration and promote linguistic unity within the province. However, we believe it is crucial to address the unique challenges faced by temporary foreign workers, many of whom are not fluent in French and will reside in Quebec for only 2-5 years. These individuals, contributing to Quebec’s diversity and economy, often find themselves caught in a complex regulatory environment that doesn’t fully consider their temporary status. Our concern lies in ensuring that the legislation accommodates these workers without compromising the overarching goal of reinforcing French language use among Quebec’s permanent population. Therefore, while we support the strengthening of the French language, we advocate for a more nuanced approach that also recognizes the transient nature and limited impact of this demographic on the linguistic landscape of Quebec.

The Work Permit Conundrum

The Educational sector embodies one of Bill 96’s most contentious fronts. Public Education in Quebec bifurcates into French and English systems, with access to the latter requiring the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility from the English School Board, which is required by all children who wish to attend a public English School, regardless of their immigration status. Traditionally, this certificate spanned a maximum of five years for children with parent’s holding a work permit (different rules apply for Canadian Citizens), However, Bill 96 reduced the 5 years to 3 years. This change introduces complexities, especially for those issued work permits for less than years, even if there is an anticipation of an extension. Sometimes, assignees have passports that expire before 3 years and immigration lawyers do not encourage those assignees to renew their work permits, to ensure that work permit durations can be maximized. The transient nature of such permits casts doubt on the longevity of a child’s placement in English education. This precarious situation urges families to contemplate French education as a viable, long-term strategy. Simply put, if the work permit is issued for less than 3 years it is unlikely the child will be eligible to attend a Public English language school for 3 years. The child will be required to change to a French Language School or attend a Private English School after the Certificate of Eligibility expires.

Education Amidst Legislative Uncertainty

This legislative infancy breeds uncertainty, leaving educators and families alike in a lurch, deciphering how best to navigate these changes. The urgency in selecting the appropriate language school from the onset cannot be overstated, given the potential for disruptive transitions for the children involved.

Moreover, Quebec’s unique educational structure, comprising conventional high schools and the subsequent CEGEP system, further complicates this landscape. While English CEGEP options exist, the mandatory French course requirement poses a formidable challenge for students with no prior exposure to the language. CEGEP exit exams include French proficiency exams that will be hard for those who did not study French. Consequently, families with a longer-term vision for their stay in Quebec must weigh the prospects of private English schooling, albeit limited in availability, or embracing of the French education option.

Conclusion

Adapting to a New Linguistic Reality

As Bill 96 unfolds, its ramifications on relocating families—particularly concerning English education—are profound. The legislative ambiguity surrounding the bill’s enforcement and the direct tie between work permit duration and children’s eligibility for English schooling demand careful consideration. With the potential for policy shifts, families relocating to Quebec must remain agile, possibly embracing French education as part of their new reality. This adjustment not only reflects compliance with Bill 96 but also embodies an embrace of Quebec’s rich linguistic heritage, preparing families for a truly bilingual future.

Relocation expert

Michael Deane

Michael Deane

Helping companies relocate employees & recruits seamlessly, whether it is domestically, cross-border or globally.

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