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Education ministry officials refuse to deliver presentation in English to parents of special needs children

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Several parents are upset after officials with the Quebec Education Ministry refused to deliver a presentation in English to parents of special needs students who go to English schools.

When pressed as to why they couldn't present in English to the roughly 65 parents who joined the Zoom session Thursday evening, one of the public servants said, in French, that "I would have liked to have done it in English but the law currently doesn't allow it."

The special education coordinator with the Ministry of Education went on to tell the parents, "We don't have the right to do the presentation in English."

The presentation was meant to provide information to parents about education and training programs offered by the ministry to help them make decisions about educational paths for their children in school.

There had already been a presentation by the ministry for parents of francophone students and the one on Thursday, which was in the works for months, was meant exclusively for English parents.

The slides of the presentation were in English but the coordinator spoke exclusively in French for about 20 minutes explaining the educational pathways.

The coordinators who said they couldn't deliver the presentation in English would nevertheless later answer questions in English during the Q&A portion of the session.

A recording of the Zoom session, obtained by CTV News, showed parents voicing their frustration in the online chat during the meeting.

"What? It's against the law to help us understand how to find help?" one parent wrote, while another one said: "This is ridiculous."

Upset by the lack of English, one parent wrote to the group: "What a shame. I was looking forward to this."

Another one said: "We do have a right to be served in English from [the] provincial government."

Sara Hossaini was one of the parents who attended the session to help make decisions for her 14-year-old son, who has autism and attends John Rennie High School in Pointe-Claire.

"It feels very discriminatory and exclusive, and just being ignored, you know, like you don't matter. When you have a child with special needs, believe me, life is hard," Hossaini said in an interview Friday evening.

"The presentation was promised in English and that's why we were there. Otherwise, we wouldn't attend."

She said French, her third language, is not very strong and was disappointed at the officials' refusal to speak English during the session.

"I have a child with special needs. The path of life is difficult. I have to figure that path out but figure that out in another language completely is — I hope you understand the challenges that adds," she explained.

The ministry of education did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday evening. 

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