Public Education & Human Development
Policy without Practice: Barriers to Enrollment for Non-Status Immigrant Students in Toronto’s Catholic Schools
This research project is a follow-up to Social Planning Toronto’s 2008 report entitled, “The Right to Learn: Access to Public Education for Non-Status Immigrants”, which documented the experiences and barriers that non-status residents were facing in enrolling their children into Toronto’s public schools. This report was distributed to all trustees from both the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). In the report we found that despite a clear provincial law (Ontario Education Act) which states no child shall be denied admission to an Ontario public school, even if they or their parents lack immigration status, some families had in fact been denied access, were unaware of their rights, or faced obstacles during the registration process. As well, parents raised issues concerning their child’s safety while attending school and feeling the need to “stay under the radar”, which impacted both parent and child involvement in school activities.
Access to public education for children and youth in Ontario, regardless of immigration status, is both a right and a requirement under provincial law. Yet many non-status families with school-aged children and youth have experienced difficulties with and expressed deep concerns about accessing the public education system in Toronto. Many are unaware of their child’s right to an education, or are reluctant to exercise that right for fear of being reported to police or immigration officials. While educators, school administrators, trustees, community legal workers, lawyers, services providers, advocates and affected students and their families are aware of some of the problems with access to public schools, to our knowledge no studies have documented these barriers or the first-hand experiences of non-status families accessing public education in Toronto or elsewhere in Canada.
Kid Builders Research Project Phase 3 examines the educational needs of homeless children living in Toronto and the links between homelessness and school success. The Kid Builders Research Project begins to build Canadian literature on the education of homeless children, looking at who homeless children are and how they experience the school system. The Kid Builders Research Project Phase 3 assesses how homelessness affects school performance, what programs and services support their educational needs and what program or policy changes are needed. Phase 3 also provides the beginnings of a profile of shelters that serve homeless families in Toronto, who they serve and what services they provide.
Immigrants to Toronto arrive in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Census data shows that the Greater Toronto Area has more foreign-born residents as a percentage (42%) of its population than any other city in Canada. Immigrants in the city are from approximately 170 countries speaking more than 100 languages. The percentage of immigrants in Toronto has increased steadily over the past years and still continues to grow. For this segment of our population, learning English is one of the keys to successful settlement and to becoming functioning and contributing members of our society.
With the increase in immigration to our city comes the increased demand for English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. But has Toronto kept pace? Are our ESL programs meeting the needs of our new immigrant population or the needs of the larger society? Evidence indicates that we are not making the grade.
One of the key tasks facing most immigrants to Toronto is the acquisition of English as a Second Language (ESL). But while there is broad agreement at all levels of government that this task must be met with appropriate educational support from government, the implementation processes for that support have been fraught with complexity and ambiguity (Burnaby and James, 2000 and Donkor, 2004).
Immigrants to Toronto arrive in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Learning English is one of the keys to successful settlement. With the increase in immigration to our city comes the increased demand for ESL programs. But has Toronto kept pace? Are our ESL programs meeting the needs of these new immigrants, or the needs of the larger society? Evidence indicates we are not making the grade.