Brief historical background of education in French as a first language in Yellowknife
In 1989, the right for the first education program in French as a first language was granted by the NT Government to a group of French-speaking parents of Yellowknife, who claimed that right in accordance with Article 23 of La Charte canadienne des droits et libertés (The Canadian Human Rights Chart). During these 15 years, the parents have continuously claimed their right of having not only an education program in French as a first language, but also their right to have the necessary tools to fulfill the needs of their children in the matter of academic development and group affiliation reinforcement. Among the very important tools we find a homogenous Francophone school, adequate school and preschool services and full autonomy in the school administration.
From September 1989 to November 2000, the Francophone education was under the administration of the Yellowknife Education District #1 (YK#1). A Conseil scolaire francophone (Francophone School Council) was officially established in 1995 with the functions, powers and responsibilities stipulated in the Loi sur l’Éducation de 1995 (Law on Education of 1995). It was a joint administration where the Conseil (Council) had no authority over the personnel or the properties. It had a consultative but not a decision-making right.
The implementation of a program in French as a first language was made in 1989 with nine students. Firstly given in a classroom of Sissons School, the program moved a few months later in two mobile units which will later become l’École Allain St-Cyr.
Due to the increase of the student population, two more units were added, one of which served as the library, the personnel lounge, the Conseil scolaire francophone (the Francophone School Council) office and the storage room. Even if over the years the number of mobile units increased to six, space was still missing forcing the secretary’s office to be in the hallway. There was very little space for the principal’s office and for an additional teacher for children who needed special attention. The fact that the students had to go to Sissons School to use the gymnasium was a major inconvenience. These conditions were supposed to be temporary, but they lasted 10 years. A whole generation of students endured these unacceptable conditions. In 1996, the new Loi sur l’Éducation des TNO (Law on Education of the NT) recognized the right of education in French as a first language to the ayants droit (the parents having that right), in accordance with Article 23 of La Charte canadienne des droits et libertés (The Canadian Human Rights Chart). In 1996, an official demand was made to Canadian Heritage for the financing of a new school.
In partnership with the School Board YK#1, the Ministry, Canadian Heritage and the Conseil scolaire francophone (Francophone School Council), an agreement was reached allowing the construction of a new school adjacent to William McDonald, a double system school (French immersion program and an Anglophone program in the same school). The new school l’École Allain St-Cyr had to provide for the needs of the students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Having no science laboratory, no home economics classroom, no gymnasium, no recreation ground, the personnel and the students of the new school were compelled to use those of William McDonald School. In addition, the École Allain St-Cyr building was to have a Francophone daycare centre (refer to the section La Garderie Plein Soleil daycare centre), and a community area (agora). In 1999, ten years after its formal opening, the students and the personnel of l’École Allain St-Cyr moved into their new school. According to the NT Government standards, the three-storey building, measuring 1644 sq. meters, can accept up to 130 students (from kindergarten to grade 12). On November 6th 2000, the Commission scolaire francophone de division (Divisional Francophone School Board) was established, and in July 2001 it had the full responsibility of the school administration of the Francophone education.
In 2001, the school and the daycare centre had already become too small. Furthermore, despite the initial agreement of 1999, there were many difficulties related to the use of space in the neighbouring school. In 2003, the Commission scolaire francophone de division (Divisional Francophone School Board) repeatedly exposed to the NT Government the need of extension of l’École Allain St-Cyr to meet the increasing number of students, and the necessity of a gymnasium and extra space for the high school level programs.
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