Côte Saint-Luc, December 18, 2012 – The first five municipalities with bilingual status adopted resolutions yesterday affirming their desire to retain their bilingual status and opposing Bill 14, which would give the Quebec government the power to unilaterally remove this status against the will of the municipality or borough concerned.
The municipalities that adopted the resolution yesterday include the City of Côte Saint-Luc, the Town of Hampstead, the Town of Montreal West, the Town of Mount Royal and the Town of Senneville. It is anticipated that cities, towns and boroughs with bilingual status across the province will adopt the resolution prior to the legislative hearings on Bill 14.
“If the bill becomes law, more than half of the 84 municipalities and boroughs that have bilingual status might lose it,” said Mayor Anthony Housefather of Côte Saint-Luc. “It is unconscionable that the Parti Québécois government amended the legislation in 2000 to define who is an English-speaker in the narrowest possible way and now wants to use those misleading numbers to unilaterally remove bilingual status.”
Since 1977, it have been illegal for municipalities to, among other things, send a bilingual tax bill, erect bilingual signage, or send a bilingual memo to city workers. However, an exception was made under Section 29.1 of the Charter of the French Language, commonly referred to as bilingual status, for municipalities where a majority of residents spoke a language other than French. In 2000, another Parti Québécois government adopted Bill 171, which drastically changed the criteria to obtain bilingual status from a majority of residents of a municipality or borough who spoke a language other than French to a majority of residents whose mother tongue was English.
This revised criteria was imposed without consulting municipalities and boroughs, and adopted the narrowest and most inaccurate definition of the English-speaking communities.
“The criteria for who is English-speaking is ridiculously restrictive,” said Mayor William Steinberg of the Town of Hampstead. “You could live in English, speak to your kids in English, consider yourself to be English-speaking. But if 50 years ago your mom spoke to you in Italian, or Yiddish, or Greek, when you were a toddler, then the government says you are not English speaking when it comes to a municipality or borough being eligible for bilingual status.”
Bill 14, tabled by the new Parti Québécois minority government, would allow for the potential removal of bilingual status from municipalities or boroughs by decree–and against the will of the municipality or borough concerned, its duly elected council and its residents—if less than 50 percent of residents are mother tongue English speaking.
“We believe the proposed law is an attack on the fundamental rights and intrinsic character of all municipalities and boroughs that currently possess bilingual status,” said Mayor Philippe Roy of the Town of Mount Royal.
Of the 1,476 cities and towns and boroughs in Quebec, only 84—or 6 percent—have bilingual status.
The cities that passed resolutions affirmed that they view bilingual status as fundamental to the character of the municipality and as a testament of the historical presence of both the English- and French-speaking communities in the municipality.
Copies of the resolution are available here or at CoteSaintLuc.org.
- Letter to the Gazette Editor: Lisée’s comments on Bill 14 fail to comfort (gjnashen.wordpress.com)