Rights and Governments

Access to English Schools in Quebec


To attend an English kindergarten, elementary school, high school or vocational training centre in Quebec, students must fit into one of the categories explained in this article. They must also file an application.

There are no restrictions on who can attend an English adult education centre, CEGEP or university in Quebec. However, English CEGEPs have a maximum enrolment cap for each school year.

There are also no restrictions on who can go to private English schools that do not get government funding (French only).

Who Can Attend an English School

These children can go to an English school:

  1. children with a right under law to attend an English school
  2. children with serious learning difficulties who are given special permission
  3. children facing a serious family or humanitarian situation who are given special permission
  4. children in Quebec temporarily
  5. Indigenous children who live (or lived) in an Indigenous community, or on Cree or Naskapi lands

1. Children With a Right Under Law

Children in these groups have a right to attend English schools:

  • Children who did the major part of their elementary or high school studies in English in Canada, and brothers and sisters of these children. At least one parent must be a Canadian citizen.
  • Children with a parent who did the major part of her or his elementary studies in English in Canada. This parent must be a Canadian citizen.
  • Children with a parent who attended French school in Quebec after August 26, 1977, if this parent would have been eligible to attend English school.
  • A child who, during the previous or current school year, received instruction in English in New Brunswick. At least one parent must be living in Quebec. The younger brothers and sisters of this child can also go to English schools.

Children in these categories who chose to attend a French school can still later go to an English school. They can also pass the right to go to an English school to their own children later on.

The “major part” test is not just based on the number of years of studies: the whole picture of a person’s educational experience must be considered to see if the person meets this test.

Note that there is a special formula for the “major part” test when someone goes to a Quebec English private school not getting government funding as a way to later attend an English school that does get government funding.

2. ​Children With Serious Learning Difficulties

A child with serious learning disabilities who doesn’t normally have a right to go to an English school can request special permission to attend.

The child must be evaluated by a psychologist, who must prepare a written report.

The brothers and sisters of this child can also request special permission to go to an English school.

3. Children Facing Serious Family or Humanitarian Situations

To ask for special permission under this category, a child must have already been refused under one of the groups in Section 1 above. Special permission must be requested within 30 days of learning of the refusal.

The request is examined by a special committee of the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MESS or Quebec ministry of education).

Here are some situations in which this special permission has been given:

  • children who were already in higher grades when they came to Quebec
  • children with serious health problems
  • children experiencing emotional trauma

​4. Children in Quebec Temporarily

There are roughly three kinds of temporary stays in Quebec that can allow children to attend an English school:

  • when a parent is studying or working in Quebec temporarily
  • when a non-Canadian parent is in Quebec as a diplomat or employee for a foreign country or an international organization
  • when a parent in the Canadian Armed Forces is temporarily assigned to Quebec

If this permission is granted, it has a time limit. Usually, this time limit is the length of the immigration document, the temporary stay or three years. However, the permission can be renewed.

Note that there are special rules for people making refugee claims and people who choose to settle in Quebec on a permanent basis after their temporary stay. To learn more, see the question “Who may receive temporary authorization?” on the website of Quebec’s ministry of education.

5. Indigenous Children

In Quebec, Indigenous schools teach in Indigenous languages, English and French. Indigenous children can attend English schools outside of their communities or lands if they meet all the following conditions:

  • they live (or lived) and went to school in an Indigenous community, or on Cree or Naskapi lands (Category I or Category IA-N lands).
  • they were taught primarily in English or in an Indigenous language during the past school year (or are currently being taught primarily in those languages), and
  • they leave the Indigenous community to continue their studies elsewhere.

Note: The Quebec government is currently simplifying the application procedure for Indigenous children to attend English schools outside of their communities. In the meantime, parents and legal guardians are advised to follow the general application process described below.

Application Process

Parents or legal guardians who want their children to go to an English school must apply for permission, even if they fall under the categories explained above.

Where to Start

For public schools, parents must apply through the English school board in their area.

For private schools, parents must apply directly to the school.

Forms and Other Documents

The school board or private school will provide the forms. They also help parents fill them out and understand what documents they need to collect.

The documents needed depend on which category the child fits into. For example, the documents might include a letter from a school outside Quebec showing that a parent did most of her elementary schooling in English elsewhere in Canada.

How Long It Takes

Once the school board or private school has all the documents, it sends the file to Quebec’s ministry of education.

If the file is complete, the ministry usually gives a written answer to the parents or legal guardians within 10 working days.

If the ministry finds that the child is eligible for English school, the ministry gives either a “certificate of eligibility” or special permission.

Challenging a Refusal

If the Quebec ministry of education refuses a request to go to an English school, the parents or legal guardians can challenge the decision.

In most situations, a challenge must be made within 60 days of getting the decision. The challenge must be made to a special court called the Tribunal administratif du Québec. The website of the Tribunal has information on how to file a challenge.

But if a parent or guardian wants to claim a serious family or humanitarian situation as a reason for a child to go to an English school, the challenge must be submitted to a special committee of the Quebec ministry of education. The website of the committee explains the procedure.