News / Winnipeg

'Attack on francophone culture': Manitoba parents sound alarm on French-language education

More than 30,000 students in the province will 'suffer a reduced quality of K-12 education,' according to the Manitoba Teachers’ Society and Partners for French Education.

Sophie Freynet-Agossa, pictured with her son Matthieu, accuses the Manitoba government of putting French-language education at risk with recent changes.

Michelle Bailey / For Metro

Sophie Freynet-Agossa, pictured with her son Matthieu, accuses the Manitoba government of putting French-language education at risk with recent changes.

The Manitoba government is being accused of launching an attack on French-language education after recent changes within the Bureau de l'éducation française (BEF).

The BEF creates and administers programs on French curricula and educational support service, as well as provides professional development to teachers.

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society and Partners for French Education held a joint news conference Monday at Collège Louis-Riel to suggest that more than 30,000 students in the province will “suffer a reduced quality of K-12 education” after the assistant deputy minister (ADM) was removed and other staff in the BEF have been transferred to jobs in English-language education.

Sophie Freynet-Agossa, who has a son in grade two, said the government is taking away the parents' voice by making these changes.

“By getting rid of that direct link to a French ADM and watering down resources in that area, they are negatively affecting the education my son and other students are receiving,” she said, adding the BEF didn’t just “translate English to French” for teachers and students.

“This move is an attack on the francophone culture” said Freynet-Agossa.

Christian Monnin, president of the Société de la francophonie manitobaine, said this demonstrates the “lack of understanding of French language education and a lack of respect for French minority language students, parents and partners.”

The groups could not provide a dollar amount when they implied the government had slashed the BEF’s budget.

“There have to be funding implications if people are being cut or moved to other areas away from the BEF,” said Bernard Lesage, president of the Division franco-manitobaine.

In an email statement to Metro, a spokesperson for Education and Training Minister, Ian Wishart, stated “Bureau de l'éducation française (BEF) continues to provide the same quality of service with the same level of funding. We understand the importance of Francophone education and supporting a school system that builds upon the strong cultural connections that exist in our communities.”

Two people who question the commitment to French education are Bonnie Turner and Barbara Perkins. The women, who in 1980 petitioned the River East School Division to have immersion available at their children’s school, say they see things going backwards.

“This is so disheartening,” said Perkins. “I thought the fight for French-language learning was over, especially with so many schools being immersion schools.”

Stakeholder groups have requested to meet with Wishart and department officials, which his spokesperson said they will “make arrangements to do so in the near future.”

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