Ontario Apologizes for 1912 Law on French in Schools
Regulation 17 Effectively Banned Public French-Language Education for a Generation
Premier Kathleen Wynne apologized in the Legislative Assembly today on behalf of the Government of Ontario for a 1912 regulation that effectively outlawed public French-language education in primary schools for more than a decade.
The government of the time introduced Regulation 17 with the stated goal of raising the quality of English-language education in "English-French" primary schools. The regulation:
- Prohibited primary schools from using French as a language of instruction or communication beyond grade 2
- Capped the amount of time primary school students could receive instruction in French as a subject to one hour per day
- Required that primary school students receive French-language education only at the parents' request.
Many teachers and schools refused to obey the law. In 1913, the government responded by introducing Regulation 18, which sought to strengthen compliance with the provisions of Regulation 17. Schools that ignored the regulations would lose their funding, and teachers would lose their certification.
Today's apology is part of the government's work to advance equality for all Ontarians, and to promote and protect the vitality and longevity of the Francophone identity in Ontario.
- The Ontario government stopped enforcing Regulation 17 after 1927, but it remained formally in effect until 1944.
- In 1984, Ontario officially recognized the right of all Francophones to receive French-language education in elementary and secondary schools.
- Francophones gained full and exclusive governance of nearly all French-language schools in Ontario in 1998.
- Ontario is home to nearly 612,000 Francophones — the largest population in Canada outside of Quebec. In 2015, Ontario celebrated 400 years of Francophone presence in the province.
“On behalf of the Government of Ontario, I apologize to all Franco-Ontarians whose families and communities were affected by Regulation 17. The Franco-Ontarian community has shown tremendous courage and tenacity in its long struggle to ensure that Francophone culture is valued as integral to the vibrant and prosperous Ontario we know today.”
“I am very proud of the work that successive governments — including our own — have done to rebuild our relationship with the Francophone community. Today further demonstrates the commitment of the Ontario government to recognize the Franco-Ontarian community as an integral part of Ontario’s history, accomplishments and future. I look forward to continuing our work with our partners in the Franco-Ontarian community to ensure that all Ontario students continue to receive quality teaching and that the specific needs of Francophone students are met.”