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N.B. inclusion advocates take issue with proposed changes to Education Act

Education Minister Bill Hogan says there was no intention to negatively impact inclusion in schools in the preparation of Bill 46. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)
Education Minister Bill Hogan says there was no intention to negatively impact inclusion in schools in the preparation of Bill 46. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)

After inclusion advocates criticized changes in recently tabled amendments to the Education Act, the New Brunswick government says it will take another look at Bill 46.

The bill was introduced in the legislature on Tuesday by Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Bill Hogan, who said the purpose was to amend governance under the act, including changes to the roles of superintendents and district education councils in the anglophone sector.

Inclusion advocates in the province took issue with some of the wording in those language changes, and Hogan said on Friday the issues would be addressed.

"There were some unintended things in that act that may have an adverse effect on inclusion and we're going to fix that," he told reporters, confirming they would be amended during the committee stage.

"I mean the last thing I want to do is have a negative impact on inclusion."

Kelly Lamrock, New Brunswick's child, youth and seniors' advocate, told Information Morning Fredericton that although he had a good dialogue with the Department of Education after bringing up issues with the bill, he remains concerned.

Ed Hunter/CBC
Ed Hunter/CBC

It's a lengthy bill with multiple changes to the inclusive education rights of children, Lamrock said and he wanted to be engaged in the process.

He also takes issue with the department's handling of inclusion.

"The minister made the comment that the governance changes are in part so that inclusion can be better defined," said Lamrock. "And we've seen some things come out of the department that in my view are not correct when it comes to inclusive education."

According to Ken Pike, director of social policy for Inclusion N.B., hs group also had numerous concerns with Bill 46, which they broached with the government, but he said Hogan's comments on Friday were encouraging.

One of the problematic changes, according to Pike, was that the section which deals with students requiring education at home or in another setting outside the school seemed broader, potentially leading to more students learning outside the school.

Section 12(4) currently states, in part, that those arrangements could be made due to "a condition or need that requires a level of care that cannot reasonably be provided effectively in a school setting."

Under Bill 46, it would be changed to "a circumstance, condition or need that requires a level of care or supervision that cannot reasonably be provided effectively at school."

Submitted by Inclusion N.B.
Submitted by Inclusion N.B.

"It could affect the right of students with a disability to be included in their schools and classrooms," Pike said.

Lamrock also pointed to a variety of problematic changes in the Bill, but suggested they were solvable.

"There was some slightly different language around the right of a child to inclusion that in my view maybe didn't square with how the Supreme Court defined it," he said.

Hogan said he is unhappy with the problems, but is glad they were pointed out.

"I can't explain how the mistakes happen," Hogan said.

"I'm currently looking into that. I'm not very happy about it.

"I'm glad that it was pointed out by our advocates with Inclusion N.B. and with Mr. Lamrock, you know, so that we can fix it before it goes forward."