The Montreal Gazette is Lying to You # 234
It is with a tearful eye and a trembling hand that I write today after reading Taking a Personal Stand, a piece by J.D. Gravenor about the plight of a poor 12 year old called Audrey-Laurence Farmer.
Poor Audrey-Laurence is a 12 year old student at a school called Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s… or was a student, we should say, because, as we learn in the article, she is being forced by the Québec government to leave her school and her friends.
Audrey-Laurence is not eligible for a Certificate of Eligibility for English Language Education, you see, because her parents have not been educated in English. The loophole that her parents had used to get her into Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s in the first place has been closed by bill 104 and, even though that law is being challenged at the Supreme Court of Canada, little Audrey-Laurence is being forced to leave her friends and classmates and start all over again in a French school.
Cue teary eyed child: “It makes me feel really sad, because I’m losing a really close friend. A lot of people who are really good friends with her are upset and they wish she could stay here, because they’ve been really attached to her.”
Audrey-Laurence Farmer is the perfect poster-child for the campaign waged by parents and Anglo school boards against bill 104: a bright bilingual kid forced to leave her school by mean bureaucrats.
It’s very dramatic indeed. It’s also a total fabrication.
Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s is not your average private school where a couple of thousands of dollars a year buys your kid ivy covered walls and pretty uniforms. Kindergarten at the Westmount school costs 12,810$ a year! Kindergarten! Tuition for grades 1 through 6 costs 14,580$ a year!
From kindergarten through grade six, Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s functions as a non-subsidized school. That means it receives no money from the government. It also means it is not regulated by bill 101 and that it can admit any child they want, even those who are not eligible for English public and subsidized private schools. Children like Audrey-Laurence.
So what happened? After grade 7 Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s becomes a subsidized school. As a subsidized school that receives government funding it can only admit students whose parents have been to English schools or who have themselves been to English schools in Canada. That’s the rule as established by the Charter of the French Language 30 years ago.
Until 2002 the school’s entire structure was built around a loophole used by some parents to get otherwise ineligible kids into subsidized English schools. Parents willing and able to pay the price of a brand new Volkswagen every year to send their children to Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s primary school were essentially buying the right to send their kids to English schools in Québec.
By the end of the sixth grade enough children had received “the majority of their education in English in Canada” and were legally allowed to attend Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s taxpayer-financed high school.
That’s exactly the loophole members of the National Assembly unanimously (yes, even the English-speaking ones!) voted to close with bill 104. Not so much because it was a way for parents to get their kids into English language schools in total violation of the spirit of bill 101, but because the loophole allowed wealthy parents to buy the right to a GOVERNMENT FUNDED English education
If grades 7 to 11 at Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s school were not subsidized, Audrey could’ve stayed. Because it is, now after the sixth grade students like Audrey-Laurence who are not eligible for English schools will have to go to French schools…
Or will they? Although most crusty private high schools in Montreal and Westmount operate on the same model of unsubsidized primary school and governement funded high school, there are some unsubsidized English high schools out there. Parents who have paid over $100,000 to send their child at Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s from kindergarten cannot claim that money is the issue here.
Schools like Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s were part of a vast network that provided a way for the wealthy to ignore Québec’s laws and obtain governement funding for high schools filled with privileged children that should not have been eligible for taxpayer financed English education.
The wealthy already have absolute freedom of choice when it comes to the language of education in Québec, as long as they forfeit about $3,500 of governement funding a year. What we are talking about here is extremely expensive schools that that had found a way to ALSO receive government money.
Let’s not forget that no other province in Canada gives as much government money to private schools as Québec. Ontario would not have contributed a dime to Audrey’s private education, in French or English!
If Audrey-Laurence’s parents had sent her to an unsubsidized school, she wouldn’t have to change schools next year. Sadly, her parents tried to have it both ways: an exclusive private education AND government money to pay for it.
They tried to cheat the system and it didn’t work out. So, as any good parents would, they told their daughter the governement is to blame.
Now that’s a lesson Audrey-Laurence will certainly remember.