Judge shoots down sign law challenge, lawyer vows to appeal
Published Wednesday, January 28, 2015 1:19PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 29, 2015 7:18AM EST
A Quebec judge has ruled that French remains threatened in Montreal despite the attempt of several business owners to challenge Bill 101 in court.
But the lawyer who lead the battle is planning to fight on and file an appeal.
“It’s not unusual for us to lose at the beginning in a case like this. We often lose in lower courts, and get redeemed in higher courts,” he said.
Lawyer Brent Tyler lost his court challenge Wednesday morning trying to defend several businesses who had signs or websites where French was not predominant enough.
The 24 small businesses were prosecuted between 1998 and 2001 for breaking language laws. The defendants were trying to prove that French is not endangered in Quebec.
Justice Salvatore Mascia supported his decision by saying that anglophones have not been marginalized by Bill 101 and that the major threat to French in Montreal continues to be English, not Mandarin nor Arabic. The judge also believed that the French language remains vulnerable because of the declining birth rate in Quebec.
The defendants were not surprised with the ruling though very disappointed, including Gary Shapiro, owner of Guaranteed Industries.
“It reconfirms that we’re really second class citizens in a first class country in a zero-class province,” said Shapiro.
Tyler said that he had not read the full judgment yet but offered several criticisms of the verdict against the bilingual signs, as the case veered towards a debate over demographic trends.
"I challenged the government to come up with one negative trend regarding the French language in the province in Quebec other than the declining weight of French on the island of Montreal and they couldn’t come up with one," Tyler told CTV Montreal after learning of the decision.
Tyler said he doesn’t believe there is any link between the language of signs or websites and demographic factors such as birth or death rates.
“Think about it logically,” said Tyler. “Do people have more babies because of the language of signs? Do they have fewer babies? Do they die earlier?”
“Yes there’s symbolic value but in an analysis under the charter of rights, symbolism isn’t enough to justify the infringement of rights,” said Tyler.