Expanded options for French education

A greater pool of students is now eligible to attend Chilliwack's French school, La Vérendrye, thanks to new rules.

The B.C. French school system, which includes Chilliwack’s école La Vérendrye, recently expanded its pool of eligible students to accept applicants who have just one grandparent of French descent. Previously, students applying under the direct lineage provision had to have a parent of French descent.

Contrary to some public perceptions, the Francophone School Authority of British Columbia is not opening up schools to Anglophones, emphasized public relations director Pierre Claveau.

“We want to open our schools to all Francophones, but we extend the notion of Francophone. The notion of Francophone is people who not only love French, like Francophile, for example, but people who really want to adhere to the Francophone culture,” said Claveau.

The change in regulation is a result of a multi-year review process, and does not indicate a decline in enrollment. Rather, the French school system continues to be one of the fastest-growing systems in the province, currently serving 4,800 students.

La Vérendrye in Chilliwack has 50 students. As a public institution, there is no waiting list, and eligible students are automatically admitted.

Besides lineage, other eligibility criteria include previous attendance in a French school (excluding immersion), French as a mother tongue, or having a parent fluent in French who immigrated to Canada. Students must also speak French fluently.

Those applying under the lineage provision must submit proof of French descent, such as a grandparent’s Quebec birth certificate or a diploma from a Quebec school.

The Francophone School Authority has a mandate to fulfill the right of Canadian students whose first language is French or who have previously received primary schooling in French to continue their education in that language, as per Article 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.