Another English school board is joining the legal fight against Quebec's Bill 96
Another Montreal-area English school board is set to join a legal challenge to Quebec's controversial language reform law known as Bill 96.
During a special council meeting Thursday evening, the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB) voted unanimously to declare its support for the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) to join its legal fight against the new law.
The SWLSB, which covers the regions of Laval, the Lanaudière region, as well as the Laurentians, said in a news release that it believes the law violates the rights of English-speaking Quebecers in managing and controlling their educational institutions under section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The section of the Charter states that citizens, "have the right to have their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in that language (English or French) in that province."
"We have always proudly promoted our school board tagline of An English Education, A bilingual Future. Although we agree that we must protect the French language, this bill clearly violates our constitutional rights and that is why the Council of Commissioners is supporting EMSB, in this legal proceeding," wrote SWLSB Chairperson Paolo Galati in a statement.
"Bill 96 is divisive and we are very concerned about the repercussions it will have on English-speaking Quebecers. We need to stand united now more than ever."
The EMSB, the province's largest English-language school board, announced last Thursday — two days after Bill 96 was officially adopted in the Quebec legislature — that it would challenge the legislation in the courts. It has not specified what will be in its legal challenge, only saying that it believes the bill violates its right to deliver an educational system as it wishes to do.
Premier François Legault invoked for the second time the notwithstanding clause to protect Bill 96 — which received Royal Assent on Thursday — from Charter challenges. Legualt used it the first time for Bill 21. The new update to Quebec's language charter imposes stricter language requirements across various sectors, including health care, education, employment and immigration.
Opponents of the bill have voiced concerns about the provisions that provide greater powers to the province's language watchdog, the OQLF, for companies with 25 or more employees and those that require new immigrants to receive services only in French after living in Quebec for six months. Educational institutions have also lambasted the premier for capping enrolment at English-language CEGEPs.