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Bill 96: Group seeking injunction against Quebec's French-language law

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A group representing Quebec's English-speaking community is seeking an injunction with the court to challenge the province's controversial French-language law known as Bill 96, CTV News has learned.

The injunction, which was filed Wednesday at the Superior Court in Montreal, says the bill constitutes an "encroachment on constitutional and human rights with respect to rights to life, liberty, and security; equality; healthcare services; government services; education; employment; as well as freedoms of expression and mobility, and freedom from undue state interference."

It also calls on the Quebec government to cease introducing new measures that restrict the use of English or penalize in the name of the Charter of the French Language.

The legal challenge was launched by lawyer Michael Bergman on behalf of the Task Force on Linguistic Policy, the same group that launched a lawsuit against Bill 96 last year.

The 21-page court filing states that Bill 96 has "completely disrupted Quebec's linguistic peace" in the province and that any new measures the government intends to introduce "have the effect of creating fear and insecurity amongst Quebec anglophones bringing them into disrepute, as a thorn, however unfounded, to the identity, culture and language of the francophone majority."

The bill, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec, became law on June 1, 2022. It brought in sweeping changes to Quebec's French-language charter, touching aspects of access to government services, how residents can communicate with 311 services, and caps on enrollment to English junior colleges, among others.

The task force's president, Andrew Caddell, said Wednesday that since the law was passed, it has had "egregious impacts" on the province's anglophone community.

"Our injunction contains evidence from 30 people who have been the victims of outright discrimination, and we know they are the tip of the iceberg. For this reason, we have to stop the application of the law before things become worse," he said in a news release.

The injunction cites examples of residents allegedly being "discriminated against" because they speak English, including:

  • A woman with a learning disability who was unable to seek justice for human rights violations because the Human Rights Commission is refusing to communicate with her in English;
  • When someone was handed a traffic ticket in French and asked for an English version, the response was that there needed to be proof that the person was entitled to be served in English;
  • A 64-year-old man called RAMQ about an issue with his medicare card and the public servant on the other line hung up when he asked for English service;
  • A woman went to the Glen Hospital and a triage nurse refused to speak to her in English so she left. The next day she went to the Queen Elizabeth and was found to have sepsis, which triggered a cardiac event that sent her to the ICU;
  • A son was told that he and other catering staff would be "expelled" if they were caught serving clients in English.

"With every day that passes, this government introduces another damaging policy, such as the signs proposal that minister Roberge has just come out with. And we have to just say, enough, is enough. And that's what we're doing," said Caddell in an interview with CTV News.

The injunction application cites other cases where the provincial government has targeted the English community, such as the tuition hikes for English universities, and says that Quebec announced last October that dozens of new language measures are expected to be imposed based on Bill 96.

"The measures being talked of, the measures already put in place, the measures that are likely coming, go far beyond casually restricting English for the betterment of French. It goes to basically completely corralling English as a language, pointing the finger at the English community in this province because it is the most identifiable source … as something that is contrary to the best interests, contrary to the survival of the majority of francophones in this province," said Bergman.

"In other words, we're second-class citizens."

The injunction joins a growing list of legal challenges and lawsuits against the bill since it was adopted by the national assembly.

The case is expected to be heard in early February.

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