Wednesday, June 11, 2008

N.B. early French immersion cuts 'unfair and unreasonable': judge

Click here to link to CBC report

Education minister says he'll announce program's fate in August

The New Brunswick government's decision to scrap early French immersion programs was quashed for at least a few months by a provincial court judge Wednesday.

Justice Hugh McLellan, of the Court of the Queen's Bench in Saint John, ruled there should be a judicial review into the cancellation of the early French immersion program, which was offered to students entering Grade 1.

In his seven-page decision, McLellan wrote that the decision to cut the French education program was "unfair and unreasonable."

"The application for judicial review is allowed. The minister's decision to phase out early French immersion is removed into the court and quashed."

Breach of contract alleged

The group had called on the court to delay the program's cancellation. The court challenge dealt with two specific children who are currently enrolled in kindergarten and registered to start early French immersion in the fall, but the case will affect the entire province.
McLellan said that parents who had enrolled their children in the program for the fall "had a reasonable and legitimate expectation that program would not be cut without them having a real opportunity to be heard by the minister."
Lamrock said he would set up a website and consult with those affected by the decision. The consultations are set to continue until July 25, with the announcement on whether the program will go ahead in September to be announced on August 5.

He said the six-week consultation period will allow the government "to hear if there are other ideas from New Brunswickers as to how we can meet our goals. For example, making sure we have a higher rate of participation in immersion programs, making sure we have more bilingual graduates, not fewer, making sure we have more equality and equality of access to bilingual access. These are important questions."

He said he hoped there would be "good conversation" over the next few weeks and that he would keep an open mind.

He said a decision in early August would still leave time to implement his proposals from March for the start of the school year. He said whether another plan could be implemented on this timeline would depend on the details of the alternate plan.

Bloggers' notes: Minister Lamrock's comments in the media are somewhat confusing in light of Justice McLellan's decision. "Quashed" means that Minister Lamrock's plan is terminated and that EFI is reinstated. It means that he now has to re-hire the immersion teachers, not sell the EFI books, put EFI information back on the web, offer information sessions on EFI for next year ... If he does not do this, then we will never know that his consultation period is genuine and he is potentially in contempt of court.

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