Since opening in 1998, the board, which covers much of the Montreal downtown, has seen enrollment in “free fall,” dropping from a peak of 27,000 students at the turn of the century to this year’s projection of 19,800, Mr. The losses are part of a province-wide downturn in Anglophone students, with most English-language school boards in Quebec seeing fewer students each year — except for those lucky ones in the Montreal suburbs that have benefited from Anglophone migration.
The Quebec English School Boards Association says enrolment in its schools has fallen by more than 150,000 students since the 1970s.
While the English Montreal School Board attributes some of its losses to an exodus of families from the expensive downtown core to the cheaper suburbs, the “main enemy is the Quebec language laws,” said official Michael Cohen.
This year’s decrease is the latest fall in student numbers, dating back to a controversial, decade-old bill that further tightened restrictions on who is eligible to learn in English.
The 1977 French Language Charter allows students to enroll in the English school system only if at least one parent is a Canadian citizen who was educated at an English-language school.
A 2002 bill amended the charter, closing a loophole that had allowed the Montreal English School Board a steady annual flow of 400 extra students.
Until then, students and their younger siblings could enroll in the English system after spending some time in an unsubsidized Anglophone private school.Bill 104 was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada, but the English school board claims any resulting changes were so ineffective it now only sees a few students coming from the private school system each year. D’Aoust said his only recourse is to produce bilingual students who remain in Quebec, become “gainfully employed and at some point have children of their own,” who would be eligible for the English school system.