Quebec Superior Court decision: Partial stay on Bill 96, EMSB ‘very pleased’

"Continue operating the way we always have," says Joe Ortona of the English Montreal School Board, as a decision from Quebec’s Superior Court provides a partial stay of provisions of Bill 96, the province’s French language law.

By News Staff

A decision from Québec’s Superior Court provides a partial stay of provisions of Bill 96 – the province’s French language law – which the English Montreal School Board calls “a significant win.”

“While we offer rich programming in French in our schools and are committed to ensuring our students have strong French language capabilities so that they can live and work in Québec, it is important to emphasize that we are an English-language school board and a key institution of the English-speaking community,” stated EMSB chair, Joe Ortona, in a press release.

The court stayed parts of the law that would require English school boards to communicate exclusively in French when writing with key institutions of the English-speaking community, like the Quebec English School Boards Association or the English Parents’ Committee Association of Quebec. 

“When you look at an English-language school board that should be functioning in English that now has to function internally in French, that just doesn’t make sense.

The EMSB had challenged the application of amendments to the Charter of the French Language – adopted in 2002 – that the government only brought into force in June 2023. The board says this was done without any consultation from the English-language community.

The decision means the EMSB can continue to use English exclusively in many situations.

“I speak French. I speak French at work, in my community, wherever I go, in any business I go into, I’m fully functional in French. But there’s always this sense that the French language is under threat. We’ve gone through these language debates and we chose to stay, so we accept that French is the common language. We’re not a threat to the common language, we’re an asset,” Ortona told CityNews.

In their ruling, the court concluded that the term “school service centres” in legislation applies to English-language school boards, despite the fact that Bill 40 does not apply to English-language school boards, and that English-language school boards are not school service centres.

The EMSB’s Council of Commissioners will have to decide whether to appeal this part of the ruling.

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