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EMSB challenges 'absurd' requirement for English boards to communicate in French


The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) says it plans to file a motion Wednesday in Quebec Superior Court about its right to communicate in English.

This comes after EMSB Chair Joe Ortona says the school board received "communications" from the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) with what he considers to be a "very strict interpretation of Bill 96," Quebec's controversial language law.

"[It] would require us to communicate in French, even internally, and that makes absolutely no sense," he told CTV News. "Everybody within our school system agrees with that. So, we don't see any other option here than to launch this challenge."

Ortona laments that English-language school boards were told they could communicate with their communities in English solely for pedagogical matters.

"The OQLF is giving a very strict interpretation of what constitutes pedagogical matters," he said. "If you are emailing parents, for example, because of an issue that occurred in the school with the child, even if it's during class time, that's not a pedagogical matter because we're not dealing strictly with matters of curriculum."

The EMSB is Quebec's largest English-language school board with more than 44,000 students.

It says it plans to ask the courts to issue a stay on the language rules until the various constitutional challenges to Bill 96 are concluded.

He argues it's ridiculous that English school boards are being forced to communicate in French.

"For an English teacher to be writing to English-speaking parents and have to do so in French, I happen to think it is absurd," said Ortona. "If we're writing to parents, it's in French. If we're writing among teachers and principals, it's in French; from one English board to another, it's in French."

He says the day-to-day operations have become stunted because of this language setback -- and what's suffering is the children's education.

"If a teacher says, 'Hey, my calculator went missing or such and such a thing was misplaced. Does anybody know where it is?' It must be written in French according to the OQLF," said Ortona. "It's absurd to have to spend the time and the money to translate all of these things when we could be putting resources in education."

He argues teaching children in English does not threaten the French language in Quebec at all.

"We are an English language school board," he stated. "Our mission is to serve the English-speaking community and educate them in English, of course, also in French, but also in English, much to the displeasure of this government. "

Ortona points out that French schools in the rest of Canada are allowed to operate exclusively in their language.

"We promote bilingualism," he reiterated. "We place importance on French, but also on English. We're an English school board, and we should be operating in English."

Last year, the EMSB filed an application in Superior Court calling for a judicial review of Bill 96.

In its application, EMSB Chair Joe Ortona argued the law violates the Canadian Constitution by infringing on the right to equal access in Canada's two official languages.

It also argues that provisions of Bill 96 violate the right to "management and control of minority language education exercised by the English Montreal School Board" under Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Top Stories

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