11/02/2012 02:10 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Vancouver francophone school conditions violate minority rights

The rights of students at a francophone elementary school in Vancouver have been violated, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled.

Justice Peter Willcock said conditions at Vancouver's École Rose des Vents lag far behind nearby English-speaking schools, and ruled the province needs to ensure standards are equal.

The judge noted the francophone school, which is for students whose first language is French, has 344 students in a space meant for 200, and its daycare program has 90 names on its waiting list, but can only accomodate 12 children.

While the judge ruled the disparity violates charter provisions upholding minority language rights, he didn't say what should be done to correct the problem.

The case began in 2010 when parents argued the school was too small and had inadequate washrooms and library space.

Parents thankful for decision

But the ruling could also impact a larger case involving conditions at 14 other francophone schools across B.C.

Alexandra Greenhill, a parent at École Rose des Vents and the president of B.C.'s Conseil Scolaire Francophone, says her group is mounting a similar challenge province-wide.

Greenhill says poor conditions at École Rose des Vents have already cost her daughter three friends whose parents gave up on the francophone school and put their kids in the English public school system instead.

"It took her two years to find other kids she enjoyed playing with and there was incredible pressure on us to switch."

The Education Ministry says it's reviewing the court decision, but Greenhill says she hopes they'll upgrade the school rather than appeal the ruling.

"I would just remind them who is at stake here — and the stake in question is the kids — and so my kids are going to have gone through the elementary experience in a way that's going to mark them for the rest of their lives," she said.

"It's really disheartening and it kind of shakes your belief in the public process."