Loyola High School in Montreal. Photo from Loyola High School

Loyola High School in Montreal opens to girls

  • August 24, 2023

This autumn, when Loyola High School in Montreal opens its doors to welcome 50 young women to the incoming seventh-grade class, only two single-sex Jesuit secondary schools will remain in Canada.

Founded in 1896 at the request of the English Catholic community, Loyola announced in May 2022 IT would accept girls for the first time in its storied history. Applications were opened in September 2022 for entrance this academic year.

“Men for Others,” remains the Ignatian motto of both Brebeuf College in Toronto and St. Paul’s High School in Winnipeg and it was once the motto of Loyola. To reflect the new reality, the school has expanded on the original formulation: “Loyola forms men and women for and with others.”

Loyola is the oldest Jesuit school in Canada and can cite a roster of illustrious alumni, including Warren Allemande, who served as Solicitor General under Pierre Trudeau, singer-songwriter Sam Roberts and Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The move to coeducation at Loyola comes after many years of pressure placed on English-language educational institutions in Quebec. Since the passage of the Charter of the French Language in 1977, and an amendment to the law in 1982, only a very narrowly defined group of children are eligible to receive English education in the province.

To qualify to receive a Certificate of English Eligibility, a child must have at least one Canadian parent who received most of their elementary studies in English, in Canada. A student can also qualify by transfer into Quebec from another province, but again, only if they received their education in English. The Charter excludes most francophone Quebecers and all immigrants from accessing English-language institutions.

For Catholic English schools in Quebec, the stipulations of Law 101 had the practical effect of preventing many of the new immigrant communities, like the Filipinos and Central and South Americans that are filling the pews in the English Catholic churches, from filling their classrooms.

Combined with the steady outflow of anglophones from Quebec since the 1970s, and the parallel precipitous decline in church attendance, the demographic and political realities wrapped into the French Language Charter have created a particularly challenging environment for English Catholic educational institutions.

Queen of Angels Academy, an all-girls private high school founded by the Sisters-of-Ste. Anne in 1959, closed its doors due to low enrolment in 2014. In 1854, the Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame opened in Montreal a bilingual boarding school for girls, Villa Maria. The school started accepting boys in 2016. This year, the CND announced they would be putting the property on the market, leaving the status of the school in some uncertainty.

Despite these ominous rumblings, Loyola is looking to the future with optimism. In the 2022 press announcement, Marcelle DeFreitas, president of Loyola, noted, “We are moving forward together to prepare our building and educational team so that we are ready for any student with English-language eligibility, regardless of gender, background or belief.”

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