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OACS encourages members to advocate for French grants

Written on June 4th, 2008

Provincial cuts to French grants for independent schools a ‘bigger picture’ issue

The Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) continues its letter campaign and encourages supporters to speak up about issues concerning the Ontario government’s decision to cut back on French instruction grants to independent schools.

The federal Ministry of Canadian Heritage started the French instruction grants in the 1970s to foster multicultural understanding. Last fall in Ontario the program’s administration was passed onto the Ministry of Education.

In February independent schools were sent a letter outlining a new policy for the grants; in 2008 – 2009 elementary independent schools will no longer be eligible to receive the grants, while only secondary schools that offer Grades 9 – 12 French instruction 25 per cent of the school week can apply.

The OACS responded to this issue with a letter to the Ministry of Canadian Heritage to seek a new agreement to promote and support French language instruction in the province’s independent schools. The OACS also sent a memo to its 76 member schools encouraging them to write a letter to their federal Member of Parliament.

John Vanasselt, the OACS director of communications, says people are interested in this issue and the Alliance will keep talking with the Ministry of Canadian Heritage and the Ontario Ministry of Education to try and resolve the issue.

“We are going to continue to talk to people and as long as there is interest we are going to continue to push for a solution.”

The OACS researched why the changes were made to the grant program, and learned the decision to move the administration to the province was the Ministry of Canadian Heritage did not have a mechanism to ensure schools were meeting the grant program’s goals.

When the Ontario Ministry of Education French-Language branch investigated a number of independent schools in the province, they found some schools were using the grants for instruction in languages other than French. The change to accept only high schools into the program includes that they are inspected by the Ministry.

The solution suggested by the OACS is to have the grant money flow through the appropriate independent school organizations, which will in turn track the money and the accountability of its use.

The national policy of bilingualism is supported by independent schools and all Canadian citizens should be supported in implementing this policy, says Vanasselt.

It’s this big picture issue, not dollars and cents, which is top of mind for Jack Zondag, principal of Dundas Calvin Christian School. “We have a vision in Canada that we want kids to become bilingual, at least those who are going to be in places of leadership, and by cutting the funding at the independent school level that just makes it harder for them,” he says.

In his letter to an MP, Zondag wrote it was a proud accomplishment 25 – 30 years ago when the French grants started for independent schools, and this “bold nation building proposal” should not be undone.

With the cutting of French grants the Ontario government suggests students in independent schools do not deserve the money but those in public schools do, which is a form of discrimination, says Vanasselt.

Call to Action: Visit the advocacy section of the OACS website and write a letter to your MP. You can also share your view with OACS News by e-mailing webmaster(at)axiomnews.ca.

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Ontario government cuts grants for French instruction