Advocates for disability rights are sounding the alarm about the impact of Bill 96 on students who have language-based disabilities.
Bill 96, the province’s language law reform, will eventually require CEGEP students to complete more French courses.
One of those students is 32-year-old Leigh Smit, who is going to Dawson College for studies in social service.
Smit has been diagnosed with ADHD and struggles with school. Focusing and learning are not easy for her and she requires help.
“That’s honestly been incredibly difficult,” Smit says.
CEGEP students protest Bill 96 in co-ordinated demonstrations in and around Montreal
Smit worries that Bill 96 is going to make it even harder to succeed in school for people who have learning disabilities like her.
The French language charter reform requires English CEGEP students to add three additional classes in French in order to graduate.
Although Smit says she’s fluent in French, she believes taking more French courses would make it so tough for her that it could push her to drop out.
“It would certainly lower my performance and my school is quite important for me, so this is really bad,” Smit said.
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Disability advocates agree.
The Association for Equity and Inclusion in Post-Secondary Education (AQEIPS) fears the legislation will create even greater burdens for students with disabilities and jeopardize their future.
“If you put limits on their ability to get an education, how would you get out of the cycle of either welfare or poverty or getting better jobs?” asked Shamron Spence, president of the board.
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For its part, Vanier College says the colleges and the ministry of higher education have started working together through various committees to make sure the implementation of Bill 96 won’t adversely impact any students, including students with disabilities.
“We are confident the Ministry of Higher Education will do its part to work closely with us to ensure we serve our students well,” said John McMahon, the college’s director general.
Meanwhile, students like Smit hope they’re not left in the lurch.
“Our quality of life will decline greatly because of this law and that’s not what politicians are supposed to be doing to their people,” Smit said.
Global News called and messaged the Ministry of Higher Education for comment but didn’t receive a response by deadline.
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