In Quebec, towns and cities at risk of losing their bilingual designation are rallying to continue providing services in both French and English to their citizens.
A total of 47 municipalities, including six in the Montreal area, were given notice by the province’s Office québécois de la langue française last December.
Under the new law known as Bill 96, which aims to strengthen and protect the French language, that bilingual status can be revoked in areas where fewer than 50 per cent of citizens identify English as their mother tongue. But a bilingual jurisdiction doesn’t have to lose its designation if they pass a resolution within 120 days of receiving the letter from the Quebec government.
The Town of Kirkland, a suburb in Montreal’s West Island, is one of many places that plans to keep its status, which it has held since 1977.
“It’s a very sad day when you have to go on your knees to offer a bilingual service,” Mayor Michel Gibson said. “A service that’s intelligent, that’s of quality and that touches everybody in our municipality. It’s a sad day.”
The designation allows jurisdictions like Kirkland to offer services, post signage and mail communications in Canada’s two official languages. Meanwhile, municipalities without that status must only communicate in French, with few exceptions.
The City of Dorval is in the same boat. Mayor Marc Doret issued a note on his Facebook page last week to say 47.2 per cent of the city’s families identified English as their mother tongue, just shy of the required 50 per cent in Quebec.
“In order to maintain its bilingual status, the municipality must pass a council resolution within 120 days of receiving the notice, which will be done at our municipal council meeting to be held on Jan. 23, 2023,” he wrote.
Dorval isn’t the only on-island area to receive the notice. The City of Dollard-des-Ormeaux (DDO) told Global News in a statement it will also pass a resolution in mid-January to keep its bilingual status.
“We are following all legal processes to retain our status,” the city said.
The borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro also has official bilingual status. The borough mayor said he hopes to keep it that way, though any resolution its council passes will also have to be approved by the City of Montreal.
“I had a conversation with Mayor (Valérie) Plante right before the holidays. We spoke at the agglomeration meeting. I mentioned to her the necessity to keep our bilingual status — how it’s a part of our day-to-day lives here in Pierrefonds-Roxboro — and she assured me that they would respect the wishes of the borough,” Jim Beis said.
Pierrefonds-Roxboro, like DDO, Dorval and Kirkland, will pass a resolution to keep its designation in the coming weeks. The Town of Mount Royal, an affluent suburb on the island of Montreal, will do so as well.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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