Quebec’s ‘disappearing’ schoolchildren: How to save them
With the first drop of winter upon us, the Quebec government is struggling to get children back to school.
At least three schools in the province have been closed since the start of the school year.
At the same time, more than 4,000 students have been sent home for failing to meet attendance standards.
The province’s education minister, Jacques Gauthier, says the closures are the result of “disappearances” of children.
He says that is why the government has announced a plan to offer financial assistance to help parents find their missing children.
The Quebec Parent Teacher Association, which represents the provincial teachers’ union, says it supports the plan.
Quebec has a history of “mass disassociations” of its children from their families.
When families lose contact with their children, the government says it can’t rely on them to attend school.
The government says that has been happening to children across the province.
In Montreal, for example, there were just 642 students on a waitlist for attendance at a school last year.
Montreal is a city with a long history of children missing and disappearing.
It’s one of the largest and most multicultural cities in North America.
The city also has a population of more than 13 million.
Quebec’s social worker, Marie-France Blais, says she doesn’t know why the city has become so overwhelmed with cases of missing children in the past few years.
She says she’s heard anecdotal stories about “disassociating” children in cases of child abuse.
Blais says many of the cases she has seen are “unclear.”
The minister also says the province will offer financial support to parents in Quebec who lose contact, and it will work with parents to find the children.
Last week, Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced $8.5 million in funding for schools, but he said that will not be enough.
In a written statement, Charest said that the funding would be available only to schools that have students who are registered to attend, who are currently enrolled, and that “all schools will be required to make the same decision as to whether to open for the winter.”
“Schools will not reopen on January 1, 2018, nor will schools reopen on May 1, 2019,” he wrote.
“We will not open schools until schools are safe and secure, which is not the case today.”
The provincial government says there are only 11,000 of its own students on the waitlist to return to school next year.