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Quebec judge suspends parts of Bill 96 that apply to English school boards

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The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is celebrating what it calls a "significant win" in court after a judge stayed parts of Quebec's language laws that applied to English school boards across the province.

The Quebec Superior Court judgment temporarily suspends provisions of the law that had required English school boards from communicating exclusively in French in writing with English groups, such as the Quebec English School Boards Association or the English Parents’ Committee Association of Quebec, according to a press release on Thursday.

There is an exception for "situations where the partner or co-contractor of [the school board] requires the use of the official language," according to the ruling on April 10.

The judge's ruling is temporary until there is a judgment on the constitutionality of Bill 96 by the court.

EMSB Chair Joe Ortona said his board should be "proud" of the recent judgment, which applies to all English school boards in Quebec.

"While we offer rich programming in French in our schools and are committed to ensuring our students have strong French language capabilities so that they can live and work in Québec, it is important to emphasize that we are an English-language school board and a key institution of the English-speaking community," he said in the release.

The judgment noted that the EMSB challenged the law on behalf of the minority English population in Quebec and "act as spokespersons for people who enjoy rights guaranteed by [article] 23 of the Canadian Charter."

Justice Suzanne Courchesne wrote in her ruling that, "Clearly, the prohibition on English school boards using English in their written communications, contracts and services with partners from the minority language community, in the majority of situations, causes them serious and irreparable harm."

Ortona said in an interview that he hopes the government does not appeal her decision.

"The important thing for us as an English-language school board is that we can continue to operate in English and this doesn't create a problem or doesn't have legal ramifications for us," he told CTV News, adding that the law, as amended, would have been costly for the school board.

"It would have had a significant impact. We would have had to spend an enormous amount of money on translation costs. We would essentially not be able to function as an English-language school board if even internally amongst ourselves we have to be emailing each other in French. None of it made any sense."

Listen on CJAD 800: Quebec judge suspends parts of Bill 96 affecting English schools

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