Progress in Mission as Chilliwack & Abbotsford wait for court-ordered schools

A Mission francophone school will get a new school, but province still faces $2 billion bill for schools elsewhere

By Tyler Olsen | January 21, 2023 |6:00 am

After an extended court battle, Mission’s school for francophone students will soon get its new court-ordered gym.

But Abbotsford and Chilliwack francophone parents continue to wait for their children to get the education the Supreme Court declared they deserve more than two years ago.

Canadian francophone parents have a constitutional right to have their children educated in French. But the court declared in 2020 that BC is failing to live up to its obligations in the Fraser Valley and elsewhere. Last year, The Current reported on the ramifications of that decision for Fraser Valley francophone parents and for the province, which is looking at a capital bill that could push the $2 billion mark. You can read that story here.

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The court ruling

In December, more than two years after the Supreme Court ruling, the province announced it would provide $6.1 million for a gym at École élémentaire des deux-rives in Mission.

The school is one of several in the province that offers French-language schooling to the children of francophone parents. They are run by their own special school board, the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (CSF).

“Our government is pleased to be supporting the new addition at École élémentaire des Deux-rives to provide students with more room to run and play, and additional space for other learning opportunities,” education minister Jennifer Whiteside declared in a press release.

But Whiteside’s government had no choice in whether to build a new gym at the small Mission school.

Mission was one of three Fraser Valley communities where the Supreme Court declared that the province wasn’t meeting its obligations to francophone parents. The court ordered the province to create a decent gym at the Mission school. It also ruled that Chilliwack’s school must be improved, and that a school needs to be built in Abbotsford.

The ruling came after the CSF sued the province.

In its press release, the province pointed to $80 million of capital funding it has provided to the CSF over the last five years. The release did not mention the court ruling nor the fact that the court order came only after the CSF sued the province. It also didn’t mention that the capital investments required by the supreme court could hit $2 billion over the coming years. A capital plan by the CSF puts the requested cost at $1.8 billion, but rising costs seem likely to increase that sum. The price tag of the Mission gym, for instance, is more than 20% higher than that suggested in the capital plan.

In a response to questions by The Current, the Ministry of Education pointed to funding it has provided to create a dedicated office to plan the CSF’s capital projects.

The office is intended to accelerate the pace of building CSF projects, the ministry said It also wrote that it’s working with the CSF “to locate appropriate sites for establishing permanent facilities in both Chilliwack and Abbotsford.” That suggests that Chilliwack is likely to get an entirely new francophone school, rather than simply an upgraded version of the current facility.

You can read our original story on the landmark ruling, with more details about what it means for local communities, here.

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Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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