Injustice against 11-year-old is a test for Kathleen Weil

Loi 104 - Les écoles passerelles - réplique à la Cour suprême

Kyle Wozniak is only 11, but he poses an interesting test for Kathleen Weil, the rookie member of the National Assembly for Notre Dame de Grâce.
That's the neighbourhood where Kyle goes to school. He struggled in the early grades in French school, but has reportedly been flourishing this year since he switched in September to the English-language Willingdon School. But now a Quebec government committee has in its aloofness ordered him back to the French sector. It's as unfeeling a language-law absurdity as any in recent memory.
The story was recounted in yesterday's paper by our education reporter Brenda Branswell: The lad lives with his mother Nina Wozniak, who under Quebec's French Language Charter has no right to send him to English school, since she went to school in French. Nina is estranged from Kyle's father Mike Romanuck, who went to school in English in Western Canada, which should make the youngster eligible for English schooling.
The problem is that the most Nina can prove is that Mike studied out west in English in Grades 3 and 4 and in high school. A British Columbia school fire, and a records-destruction policy at a small-town Alberta school, have erased the rest of Mike's documentation.
For any normal person, we think, the evidence available would be sufficient. Does anyone really suppose that the father, as a child, somehow studied in Tagalog or Latvian in the interstices of his recorded English-language years? But Quebec officials are not normal when it comes to pinching off English education: an administrative tribunal has ruled that in the absence of complete records, young Kyle must go to school in French. Mike's mother, who still lives out west, asserts that all of his schooling was in English; that's not good enough either.
A more mean-spirited bit of social engineering would be hard to find. And it gets worse: Nina Wozniak's new husband went to school in Quebec in English, and so their 3-year-old daughter is eligible to do the same. When she's old enough for school, that means she may be able to take Kyle with her, since siblings may stay together. But for now, the tribunal says, Kyle is barred from Willingdon.
That's where Weil the MNA comes in. As she begins her political career as an MNA and Quebec's justice minister, much has been made of Weil's own linguistic identity. Parachuted into a massively Liberal (and largely anglophone/allophone) riding, Weil has seemed willing, if not eager, to distance herself from the anglo community.
She has, we understand, told Nina Wozniak that she will look into Kyle's case. Now she has a tough decision to make: Will she go to bat, even quietly within the bureaucracy, for a constituent whose son is getting chewed up in the maw of institutionalized paranoia about English schooling? Or will she let the language enforcers have their way with this N.D.G. family?
For that matter, why does the law insist on biological parenting as the standard for eligibility to English schools? In these days of common divorce and blended families, why not accept a step-parent as a substitute standard for English-school eligibility?
It would be too much to expect Weil, or anyone else high in the Liberal Party, to actually propose that. But considering the evidence, surely the Liberals' subtle calculations of nationalism could include doing the right thing for this one family. Weil's constituents will be watching.

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