'It doesn't feel human': Six Quebecers file legal challenge against Bill 96
One year less a day after Quebec's Bill 96 came into force, a new legal challenge was filed Wednesday at the Montreal courthouse on behalf of six people.
They argue the law to strengthen the French language will make it more difficult to access necessary services in English, adding that they believe it places language rights before human rights.
One of the six named in the lawsuit is Elena Montecalvo. Her son, Giancarlo, has autism and sometimes gets violent, she said.
His psychiatrist recommended an in-patient program at the Rivieres-des-Prairies Hospital that analyzes how he reacts to different medicines. He was denied entry to the program because he attends an English school.
"For my entire family's safety, we needed him to be treated – and to be denied that because of a language issue feels beyond discriminatory. It doesn't feel human," she said.
"I want to be part of this lawsuit because I realize that if they were legally allowed to make this decision before this bill passed, I can only imagine how much worse things will get."
The suit was filed by a group called the Task Force on Linguistic Policy.
"Today, we are obliged to take the Quebec government to court to ensure our rights are respected," said Andrew Caddell, task force president.
"No legislation can abolish individual rights, which is what Bill 96 tries to do by invoking the notwithstanding clause," added lawyer Michael Bergman.
When asked about the court challenge, Eric Girard, the minister responsible for relations with the English-speaking community, reiterated the party line that Bill 96 exists to promote the French language.
"I've had many meetings with members of the English community, and we have been quite clear that Bill 96 does not impact access to services with respect to health care," he said.
The opposition Liberals would not say whether they support the lawsuit, though appeared unsurprised by the latest court challenge.
"By using the blanket notwithstanding clause on these bills in general, the government freely admitted it was bypassing certain rights that are enshrined in our charters," said Liberal MNA Andre Fortin.
The task force warns it will likely take several years before a final ruling is determined in this case.