The minister responsible for Montreal and the status of Anglophones is moving to ease fears over the bilingual status of some Quebec municipalities.

The fears arose upon last week’s announcement of Bill 14, a bill that would strengthen Bill 101’s language laws.

Quebec municipalities that see their Anglophone populations drop below 50 per cent feared they might lose their bilingual status.

That won’t happen automatically, said Anglophones Minister Jean-Francois Lisee. Discussions would take place before any decision is taken, he said.

“I thought it was important to make it rather difficult to take away this status that is worth a lot. I invite the mayors of these municipalities to participate in the parliamentary commission over this mechanism, to look it over, to propose changes, if you will. We are in listening mode and (consultation) mode on this issue and others,” he said.

Lisee also said he believes the threshold should be 40 per cent.

Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella said she wants to hear more.

“It would be even more reassuring if they said we're not just going to look just at mother tongue, we're going to look at the languages people are speaking at home. If they're speaking English at home but their mother tongue happens to be Russian or Polish or Yiddish, that shouldn't have an effect on it,” said Masella.   

Westmount Mayor Peter Trent said the solution is simple: a grandfather clause.

“It should simply say that those cities that currently have bilingual status should keep it,” he said.

Parliamentary committee hearings on Bill 14 begin in the New Year.

Local mayors will be invited to take part.