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Lawyers challenge Bill 96 requirement for translation of legal documents

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A group of Quebec lawyers are bringing the first legal challenge to Bill 96, the province's controversial language law, which updates the original Bill 101 adopted in 1977.

The updated law states that any documents filed for court on behalf of companies and groups must be translated to French, among other amendments.

This comes at a huge cost, lawyers argue, because there are only 54 accredited legal translation services in Quebec. They say it's not nearly enough to meet demand, and these services also cost more than standard translations.

Lead plaintiff Douglas Mitchell argues this update would put non-francophone businesses at a legal disadvantage -- especially small businesses.

"There's no logic to that except saying, we want the proceedings to be in French. Period," Mitchell said outside the courtroom Friday.

Members of the Kahnawake Mohawk Council were also present. They said this aspect of Bill 96 could place a complex burden on Indigenous groups.

"It doesn't resolve the issue for community members and organizations within the community that would have to file these translations," said Council Chief Ietsenhaienhs Tonya Perron.

The lawyers are calling for an injunction to prevent the application of this segment of Bill 96.

But government lawyers argue that while bilingual access to the court is a right, other provinces, such as B.C., impose similar translation rules for French claimants.

Several other challenges to Bill 96 are also scheduled for the coming months.

A decision regarding the injunction request is expected as early as next week.

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