Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 27, 2000
ACSTA opens door to francophones
Trustees want francophone's religious education rights recognized
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
Alberta's Catholic school trustees have welcomed the province's first Catholic francophone school board into their association, and vowed to help open the door for others to follow.
Delegates to the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association's annual meeting, held in Edmonton Nov. 17-19, approved a resolution to press the government for changes to the School Act which would recognize both the linguistic and religious education rights of Alberta's francophone community.
Currently, francophone school authorities across the province are non-denominational, with some schools designated as Catholic and others as secular.
However, the Greater Southern Separate Catholic Francophone Education Region No. 4, was formed by Minister of Learning Lyle Oberg in June 2000 as a result of negotiations between the Calgary Catholic school board and the existing francophone education region.
It all began with talks over the transfer of Calgary's Ecole Ste-Marguerite Bourgeoys.
"Parents were not happy," says Marc Renaud, chair of the GSSCFER. "Some wanted to stay with Calgary Catholic, and some wanted their own jurisdiction, but they wanted it to be a Catholic school, not part of a non-denominational francophone board."
During talks between Calgary Catholic, the francophone board, and the minister's office, it was agreed that the school would not be transferred unless it was maintained as both francophone and Catholic.
A short-term agreement reached between the three parties led to the formation of the GSSCFER, which now operates the school together with both Calgary Catholic and the francophone authority.
Linda Blasetti, chair of the Calgary Catholic board, which sponsored the ACSTA resolution, says part of the agreement was the establishment of a committee that would look at the issue provincially and recommend a more lasting solution.
That can't happen too quickly, Renaud says. "We would hope that a long-term solution will come before too long so that we can begin operating our own school."
The board also wants to open at least one more school in Calgary to accommodate its growing numbers, Renaud adds.
"The most significant outcome . . . is that Catholic rights and francophone rights are protected equally, so that Catholic francophone parents don't have to make a choice between one or the other - they have both now available to them," Blasetti says.
Edmonton Catholic trustee Ron Patsula noted the importance of letting the francophone community design its own solutions. "We also recognize that one solution will not fit all situations."
In Edmonton, he pointed out, the Catholic board has had no problems transferring seven schools to the North-Central Francophone School Division.
While moving forward on the francophone school question, delegates also gave Minister of Learning Lyle Oberg an enthusiastic response for his comments about the future of Catholic education.
"There is no threat to Catholic education in Alberta," he told the audience. "And the reason is not because it is enshrined in the Constitution.
"There's a much more practical reason . . . and it comes down to one word: Choice.