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1990] 1 S.C.R. 342 Supreme Court of Canada

Keywords: Canada, charter of rights, national level, language, minorities

Relevant law, Facts of the case, Court decision
Relevant law
Section 23.3.a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees ‘the right of citizens of Canada …… to have their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in the language of the English or French linguistic minority population of a province .….  wherever in the province the number of children of citizens who have such a right is sufficient to warrant the provision to them out of public funds of minority language instruction;’

Facts of the case
- Francophone parents of children attending school in a predominantly Anglophone province.
-116,800 students in the area. 3,750 (3.2%) with French as their first language.

-         The purpose of section 23 is to preserve and promote Canada’s two official languages, French and English.

Court decision
In taking the potential cost to government into account and the small percentage of children involved, the Court decided not to give the parents full control of the educational facilities or an independent school board. (See cases on freedom of education). Instead, the Court held that Francophone parents had a right to guaranteed representation and special powers on an existing school board.

Note the limiting clause that makes up the second half of the provision in section 23: there must be enough children requiring the special language provision. The law takes into account the need for public funds to be used appropriately. If there were only very small numbers of children requiring the special language provision, the law acknowledges that public funds could be better spent on other services. See section of case on budget interfering. 

The case below is similar but stated that families would have to be flexible in terms of which school their children would be educated.