More Work Needed to Ensure Every Child’s Right to Education

TDSB’s 2007 Students Without Legal Immigration Status Policy: One Year Later

In May 2007, trustees with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) unanimously passed the Students Without Legal Immigration Status policy. This policy confirms non-status immigrant students' right to education as protected under section 49.1 of the Ontario Education Act. The TDSB policy states that:

"all children who are qualified to be resident pupils to the Board, including those who are without immigration status in Canada, shall be entitled to admission to school" and that "all children shall be welcomed, regardless of immigration status, and information about them or their families shall not be shared with Immigration authorities."

The policy identifies several directives to guide its implementation, including instructions that the policy be communicated annually to all school administrators and school office staff, that orientation and training on the policy be provided to school staff, and that schools accept letters from professionals such as doctors and lawyers to verify a student's name, home address or date of arrival where usual documentation is not available.

One year later, the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto (CSPC-T) checked up on TDSB's progress in implementing the 2007 policy. In May 2008, CSPC-T contacted ten randomly selected primary schools in the Toronto District School Board to inquire about enrollment process and documentation requirements for non-status students.

5 schools asked for a birth certificate or passport, a health card if available, immunization record and 2 proofs of address

1 school asked for the same documentation but also stated that they weren't sure about the requirements for non-status students; they did say that it should not be a problem to enroll the student because the Board had passed a policy

1 school asked for the same documentation but when asked about enrollment for a student without status said that the TDSB head office would either "grant permission to be enrolled or reject it"

1 school stated that they needed to see immigration landing papers or that the school would need to seek permission from TDSB head office to enroll the child

1 school told us that they could not enroll the child at this time, and that they needed a permission letter from the TDSB head office, and that the family may have to pay a fee

1 school did not provide a list of documentation but suggested that the TDSB head office would either register the child or issue instructions to the school to register the child; after informing the school that the child did not have status, the school official said "I don't want to register a student who has not yet been registered"

None of the schools mentioned that letters from lawyers, notary publics and medical doctors could be used where usual documentation is unavailable

1 school mentioned that the TDSB had a policy regarding non-status students

During one in-person visit, school officials said that families had to be permanent residents, refugees or have a work permit in order to register their children. The school provided a flyer with required documentation for enrollment which included immigration documentation and made no mention of alternatives to these requirements.

Clearly, TDSB's Students Without Legal Immigration Status policy is not fully implemented at the school level. We are deeply concerned that non-status children may be being turned away from our schools. Rather than contacting TDSB head office, non-status families that are turned away from local schools may simply give up. We urge TDSB trustees and staff to renew their attention to this issue to ensure that every child's right to education is realized.

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