Expressing its willingness to help those fleeing the war in Ukraine, QESBA called on the Coalition Avenir Québec government to allow children who speak English to attend English schools as a humanitarian exemption to the province’s French-language laws.

“The general rule is people who arrive in Quebec from outside Canada must attend French school, and that’s something that has existed for many years,” Russell Copeman, the executive director of QESBA, told the Montreal Gazette. “In the Charter of the French Language, from the very beginning, there has been this notion of receiving an exemption to that general rule for humanitarian reasons.”

Speaking to reporters, Premier François Legault suggested the government might be able to support English-speaking refugees in such a way in the interim — “but as you know, people coming into Quebec have to send their children to French school,” he said.

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