Bilingual cities and towns in Quebec join forces to mount legal challenge to Bill 96


Twenty-three municipalities in Quebec have joined together to ask the courts to suspend parts of Quebec's new language law, which they describe as abusive, while they contest it.

All of the cities and towns taking part in the challenge, including Côte Saint-Luc, Beaconsfield, Dorval, Kirkland, Montreal West and Westmount have bilingual status.

The Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec, amends several pieces of Quebec legislation, including the Charter of the French Language, making it more difficult to receive services in English.

The mayors say they are concerned about communications, illegal searches and seizures, government grants and the obligation, set out in the law, to discipline public employees who break the rules by working in English.

The challenge was filed in Superior Court.

Dale Roberts-Keats, mayor of Bonne-Espérance — a municipality on the Lower North Shore about 60 kilometres from the Labrador border with fewer than 700 residents — says the new law is unreasonable.

"It's absurd that for our municipality, where 99 per cent of the population has English as their language, we can't produce contracts with suppliers in our municipality in English," said Roberts-Keats at a news conference Wednesday.

"In our office, we're all English, so how are we going to make them understand a contract that's only in French? It is just ludicrous," she said.

"We have been fighting for the rights of our English population for decades, and it hasn't been easy at all and Bill 96 will only exacerbate that situation," said Roberts-Keats.

Alex Bottausci, mayor of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, a city of 48,200 residents in Montreal's West Island, took aim at Section 117 of the law, which he says allows the province to withhold subsidies to municipalities that don't follow Bill 96 rules.

"When you lose that grant money, you're talking about roads, infrastructure, construction," which also benefit francophone and allophone residents, Bottausci said.