[lg policy] English-speaking dad makes human rights complaint over French school division policy

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Jun 1 10:29:38 EDT 2018

 English-speaking dad makes human rights complaint over French school
division policySuperintendent says if complaint successful, English schools
will likely have to change policies too
CBC News · Posted: May 31, 2018 9:49 PM CT | Last Updated: 11 hours ago
Brian Benes says he doesn't want Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine
schools to change how they operate day-to-day, but he wants to be
accommodated. (Radio-Canada)
0 comments <http://www.cbc.ca/>

A Manitoba dad has filed a human rights complaint after he says officials
at his children's French-language school won't send school notices in

"All I would like is for DSFM to develop a different attitude towards me,"
said Brian Benes, whose two daughters attend École Lagimodière, part of the
Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine, in Lorette.

"I would like to be treated like everybody else in the school division, and
I would like them to respect my requests for an accommodation to assist me
due to my English culture … and I would like them to form a policy that
allows them to accommodate any other future English parents."

Benes and his ex-wife, who is Francophone, enrolled their children in the
division years ago, when the couple was still together, he said.

The kids stayed in the division after Benes and his wife divorced, he said,
but he doesn't speak French and can't read notes sent home from the school.

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He said he's spoken to teachers and school officials in English, but has
been told schools in the division will only distribute written materials in
French, except when related to health or emergencies.

Last week, he says his younger daughter was vaccinated at school but
received a note in French. School division superintendent
Alain Laberge said that material was provided by the health authority, and
he sent Benes a link to the English information himself.

About a month ago, Benes filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights
Commission challenging the division's policy.

"For them to refuse to communicate me in so many different aspects, it
hurts and it's frustrating because I am a very involved parent in my
children's life," he said.

"I'm a positive parent like most parents, but I've never been able to be
involved in their schooling because of the language barriers."
'This is our soul'

Superintendent Laberge said the policy has been in place since the DSFM was
created in 1994, and comes from the Manitoba school law that created it.
That law requires the DSFM to administrate its schools in French.

He said it's no different from how English-language schools provide written
material to parents in English. Providing materials in both languages would
make DSFM schools essentially the same as immersion schools, he added.

"We do understand that some parents can't understand. They made a choice to
send their kids to a French school. They divorced, it's unfortunate, I
understand that," he said.

"But this is our mandate. This is our soul."

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Laberge said more than 65 per cent of parents in the division are in
exogenous couples — where only one of them speaks French — and guessed
about five or six per cent of parents don't speak French at all. The
division has had calls from parents concerned about the policy in the past,
he said, but it's never been challenged by a human rights complaint.
Benes's two daughters attend École Lagimodière in Lorette, Man.

He said the division and its legal counsel are co-operating with the Human
Rights Commission.

"We leave the answer to them," he said. "If they're telling us that we need
to translate everything, we need to sit down and change our policy — which,
by the way, will probably mean that the English school division will have
to change its policy as well."

Benes said he's been told by the commission that mediation of the complaint
will begin in the next four to six weeks. He said he doesn't want to change
the way the division runs its schools, but he wants accommodation.

"I fully believe in the reasoning why DSFM was created," he said. "I
understand the reasoning behind it, the legislation behind it, but I think
they've gone too far and they just need to accommodate me."


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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