(Alexandra Allaire / McGill Tribune)

Protesters call for equal access to education for non-status children

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On Sept. 25, Solidarity Across Borders held a demonstration and public assembly demanding that the Quebec Ministry of Education improve access to education for children without immigration status attending elementary and secondary school in the province.

Solidarity Across Borders is a migrant justice network based in Montreal, while the Education for All Collective is a subgroup of the network specifically targeting education. The Quebec Ministry of Education currently charges non-status children $5,000 to $6,000 per year to attend school. Solidarity Across Borders is asking the Montreal School Board Commission and the Quebec Ministry of Education to nullify the fees.

“The guidelines are fundamentally insulting to the reality of non-status kids and their families,” the network’s website reads.

The organization also criticizes how the Quebec Ministry of Education only provided guidelines for Quebec school boards regarding children without immigration status one week before the beginning of this school year. Moreover, information regarding guidelines for fees are not available on the various Quebec school boards’ and the Ministry of Education’s websites, according to Solidarity Across Borders’ website.

The demonstration was held at L’Ecole Barthelemy-Vimont, a Montreal elementary school in the borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension. Approximately 30 demonstrators gathered for the demonstration, which took place at the same time as the Montreal School Board Commission held a Council meeting inside the school. A small number of activists and representatives from Solidarity Across Borders were also able to attend the meeting.

(Alexandra Allaire / McGill Tribune)
(Alexandra Allaire / McGill Tribune)

Jaggi Singh, a member of the Solidarity Across Borders and Education for All Collective attended the event.

“It is shameful that kids are not going to school,” Singh said. “All children in the United States, including those without legal status, [have] received free education since the 1980s. There is also a language barrier, which causes a problem for parents and guardians in the process of demanding free education.”

Singh expressed frustration regarding the lack of response that they have received from the Quebec government.

“In the span of two weeks we called Marie Malavoy [Quebec Minister of Education] five times but there was no response,” Singh said. “There was no response to the many letters which we wrote either.”

Mathieu Leblanc, a media representative in the Minister of Education’s office, said that they are working on the issue.

“We are trying to add more categories of children who will not need to pay for school,” Leblanc said.

Billal Tabaichount, an economics student at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), participated in the demonstration.

“I support the cause that all children have the right to go to school but I don’t necessarily support all of the Solidarity’s arguments,” Tabaichount said.

Isabelle Larrivee, an activist who also attended the event, said that her support is based on the right to access education.

“It is fundamental and important to have access to no matter the status of a person,” she said.