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The Battle for an All-French school (Mahé vs. Alberta)

Battle for an All-French School

When the Trudeau government instituted the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in July 1982, it seemed at first that that the last political barrier to all-French schools in Alberta had been removed. In April of that same year, three months before the Charter was made law, a group of Francophone parents from Edmonton had approached the Minister of Education seeking the creation of a French-language school. They were referred to the school boards, who denied their request. Frustrated, but determined their children should have access to French education, the parents established l’Ecole Georges et Julia Bugnet, the province’s first private French school.

Only nine months later, the school would close due to a lack of funds. Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Mahé, Angeline Martel, Paul Dubé and the Association de l'école Georges et Julia Bugnet had taken legal action against the province of Alberta, demanding their constitutional right to the creation of distinct French schools and school boards. Nearly a decade later, the case known as Mahé vs. Alberta would be decided in the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). In an historic ruling on March 15, 1990, the SCC determined that the Alberta provincial government had violated the rights of its Francophone population. Three years later, the Alberta government adopted Bill 8, at last creating three French school boards (Edmonton, Rivière-la-Paix, St. Paul-Medley-Plamondon) and three coordinating Committees (Calgary, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge). Today the Fédération des parents Francophones de l'Alberta represents the interests of these communities.


Julien, Richard A.C. The French School in Alberta: An analysis of an Historical and Constitutional Question. Edmonton: University of Alberta, 1991.

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