Section 23 - Minority Language Educational Rights

  1. Citizens of Canada:
    1. whose first language learned and still understood is that of the English or French linguistic minority population of the province in which they reside, or
    2. who have received their primary school instruction in Canada in English or French and reside in a province where the language in which they received that instruction is the language of the English or French linguistic minority population of the province, have the right to have their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in that language in that province.
  2. Citizens of Canada of whom any child has received or is receiving primary or secondary school instruction in English or French in Canada, have the right to have all their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in the same language.
  3. The right of citizens of Canada under subsections 1 and 2 to have their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in the language of the English or French linguistic minority population of a province:
    1. applies wherever in the province the number of children of citizens who have such a right is sufficient to warrant the provision to them out of public funds of minority language instruction; and
    2. includes, where the number of those children so warrants, the right to have them receive that instruction in minority language educational facilities provided out of public funds.

This section of the Charter requires provincial governments to provide education to Canadians in the official language of their choice, even in areas where a minority of residents speak that language.

In nine provinces and in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, most people speak English. In these areas, Canadian citizens have the right to have their children educated in French if any of the following three situations apply:

  • their first language is French,
  • they received their own primary education in Canada in French, or
  • they have a child who has received or is receiving his or her education in French in Canada.

In Québec, where most people speak French, Canadian citizens have the right to have their children educated in English:

  • if they received their own primary instruction in Canada in English, or
  • if they have a child who has received or is receiving his or her education in English in Canada.

According to section 59 of the Constitution Act, 1982, the right of persons whose first language is English, who wish to have their children receive English-language instruction, does not apply in Québec until permitted by the legislative assembly or government of Québec.

In all cases, the right to receive an education in a minority language applies only when there is a sufficient number of eligible children to justify providing schooling in that language. Where those numbers do exist, governments must provide the necessary facilities.

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