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Francophone schools: Supreme Court decision expected today

05/14/2015 07:50 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT
The Supreme Court of Canada is set to release a decision today which could have far-reaching effects on Canada's francophone schools outside Quebec.

The main question before the court is who has the right to control admissions to francophone schools. 

The case before the Supreme Court began in 2009 as a legal challenge against the Yukon government.

"It may be that it changes everything," said Ludovic Gouailler, president of Yukon's francophone school board, which launched the case. "Or it may change nothing and send us back to the drawing board." 

Section 23 of the Charter of Rights of Freedoms guarantees Canadians the right to education in a minority language, whether English or French, but extends that right only to the children or grandchildren of those who were educated in French or whose first language is French.

Yukon's francophone school board would like to have the power to extend that right to others, such as children of new immigrants or those who could have been educated in French, but whose parents didn't exercise the right at the time. 

The decision could change the territorial government's relationship with French-speaking schools and assign the school board more control over admissions and other elements of education policy. 

Gouaillier says he is one of many in Whitehorse who has been waiting for a resolution for years. 

Several intervenors joined in the case, including Saskatchewan, the N.W.T., and francophone parents groups.

Quebec also weighed in, agreeing with the Yukon government that local board should not control admissions. 

Question could be sent back to lower court

The decision released today will not necessarily be final. The Supreme Court could send the question back to a lower court. 

Gouailler said this is a concern but is waiting to see what happens before speculating on a future course. 

"If one imagines this could start all over again and possibly go through the steps again, obviously that's something we'd not prefer to see happen," he said.

CBC North reporter Cheryl Kawaja is in Ottawa and will be covering this story today. 

Follow her on Twitter @CherylKawaja.

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