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A quick word for English Language dispute. Quebec parents challenge French Language Charter ELIZABETH THOMPSON, The Gazette Published: 6 hours ago Quebec parents challenging the constitutionality of a Quebec law that blocks some children who attend English private schools from transferring into English public schools will get their day before Canada's top court in December. The Supreme Court of Canada has set aside Dec. 15 to hear two cases that pit the Canadian Charter of Rights against Bill 104, leading some to hope that a final decision in the dispute could now be rendered in time for the start of the 2009 school year. "It appears the court is doing everything it can to hear the case as quickly as possible," said Brent Tyler, lawyer for the parents. The cases centre on Bill 104, adopted by the Parti Québécois government in 2002. Prior to Bill 104, children who were otherwise ineligible to attend English school under the terms of the French Language Charter, Bill 101, could become eligible to attend English public schools after spending at least a year in an unsubsidized English-language private school. Attending English school under a special authorization, such as for a temporary work permit or for humanitarian reasons, could also make a child and their siblings eligible for English education. At the heart of the case is the issue of which takes precedence - the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides that children who have attended English schools, and their siblings, have the right to attend English schools in Quebec, or Quebec's language charter. Although the parents in both cases lost at the lower court level, they won at the Quebec Court of Appeal which struck down Bill 104, saying the law was inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights. Tyler said the parents got more good news recently when they learned that the federal court challenges program, which was cut then partially restored by the Conservative government, has agreed to provide $70,000 in funding to fight the two cases before the Supreme Court. Tyler says the outcome of the cases could have a significant impact on English schools in Quebec - particularly in the Montreal area. Tyler said there has been a steady stream of English school closures in the Montreal area since Bill 104 was introduced and the phenomenon is more pronounced in areas of town that had been receiving students who became eligible for education in English school by attending a private school. The English Montreal School Board has estimated it has lost about 450 students a year since Bill 104 was adopted. The stakes are high for many private schools as well, said Tyler. Many English private schools in Montreal accept government money at the high school level, but not at the primary level, meaning they can accept students ineligible under Bill 101 in elementary school but not in high school. "On average, 30 per cent of the children enrolled in the primary programs of these schools now will not be able to continue in the same schools if Bill 104 is upheld by the Supreme Court," said Tyler. The challenge to Bill 104 is just one of several cases the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear this fall - many of them from Quebec. The first case to be heard, on Oct. 7, will be a challenge by a group of Hutterites to an Alberta law obliging everyone to have their photo on their driver's licences. The Hutterites argue the law violates their religious freedom because their religion believes that the second commandment prohibits them from having their photograph taken willingly. [email protected]