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Divisions by religion and language


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The Constitution of Canada provides constitutional protections for some types of publicly funded religious-based and language-based school systems.

Section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 contains a guarantee for publicly funded religious-based separate schools, provided the separate schools were established by law prior to the province joining Confederation. Court cases have established that this provision did not apply to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island, since those provinces did not provide a legal guarantee for separate schools prior to Confederation. The provision did originally apply to Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador, since these provinces did have pre-existing separate schools. This constitutional provision was repealed in Quebec by a constitutional amendment in 1997, and for Newfoundland and Labrador in 1998. The constitutional provision continues to apply to Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. There is a similar federal statutory provision which applies to the Northwest Territories. The issue of separate schools is also addressed in Section 29 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reaffirms the rights of separate schools found in the Constitution Act, 1867.

Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right of citizens who were educated in the minority language in a particular province to have their children educated in the minority language in publicly funded schools. In practice, this guarantee means that there are publicly funded English schools in Quebec, and publicly funded French schools in the other provinces and the territories.

Quebec students must attend a French school up until the end of high school unless one of their parents qualifies as a rights-holder under s.23 of the Charter.- Charter of the French language In Ontario, French language schools automatically admit students recognized under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and may admit non-francophone students through the board's admissions committee consisting of the school principal, a school superintendent and a teacher.

An example of how schools can be divided by language and religion is visible in Toronto, which has four public school boards operating in the city. They include two English first language school boards, the separate Toronto Catholic District School Board and secular Toronto District School Board; and two French boards, the separate Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir and secular Conseil scolaire Viamonde.

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