There are children living in Quebec who do not have access to primary and secondary education, excluded because of their immigration status or the immigration status of their parents. Some are among the large number of asylum seekers who are refused and awaiting their deportation, while others are born in Quebec to non-status parents, making them Canadian citizens who in theory have the right to go to school, but who often do not possess the necessary documents to register (health insurance card, birth certificate, etc.)
These children are prevented from accessing schooling that would enable them develop their mental and physical abilities, as well as the social skills essential to the realization of their potential and to their participation in society. Combined with poverty and their belonging (real or presumed) to a racialized group, exclusion from school is a form of discrimination that can lead to other social inequalities throughout their lives.
In some cases, children are able to go to school on the condition that their parents pay fees up to $6000 a year – a sum that many families cannot afford. A socio-economic barrier, then, restricts their access to education. Only full access to free education can guarantee that this right is truly universal.
The invisible reality of exclusion from education puts Canada and Quebec in contradiction with their international commitments. The federal government, as a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, has committed to make “primary education obligatory and free for all” and to make “different forms of secondary education, general as well as professional, open and accessible to all children” through “appropriate measures such as free education and financial aid when necessary.” In addition, in Quebec, the law on public education (1988) stipulates that all individuals residing in Quebec have the right to free primary and secondary education. Elected officials must demonstrate that these statements are not mere words, but binding commitments.
All individuals, regardless of their immigration status, have the right to free education, at all levels from kindergarten to university. We support the organizing efforts against tuition raises, and for accessible, free, and quality education.
It is our duty, as educators, school administrators, parents, immigrants and their allies, to take action against such inequality and to demand that our public institutions act to ensure universal access to education.
This struggle is part of a project called “Building a Solidarity City,” initiated by Solidarity Across Borders, that aims to make Montreal a space where non-status immigrants can safely access essential services (such as hospitals, clinics, schools, and food banks) without fear that their status will be revealed to the authorities.
This declaration is endorsed by:
– Solidarité sans frontières (SSF)
– Personne n’est illégal-Montréal
– Dignidad Migrante (DM)
– Le Centre des travailleurs/travailleuses immigrantEs (CTI)
– Mexicanos Unidos pour la Regularisation (MUR)
– Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ)
– Centre d’Aide aux Familles Latino-Américaines (CAFLA)
– Centre de lecture et d’écriture (CLÉ-Montréal)
– Centre de ressources de la troisième avenue
– Comité d’éducation aux Adultes de la Petite-Bourgogne et de St-Henri (CEDA)
– Conseil central du Montréalmétropolitain du CSN
– Famille pour l’entraide et l’éducation des jeunes et des adultes (FEEJAD)
– Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ)
– Ligue des droits et libertés
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