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Quebec’s newly adopted law to protect and strengthen the French language will soon face a legal challenge from the province’s largest English-language school board.
The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) voted in favour of launching a court challenge on Thursday evening at an extraordinary session held to discuss the issue.
The decision comes only two days after the law, known as Bill 96, was passed by a vote of 78-29 at the Quebec legislature.
The controversial legislation proposes tougher language requirements, including in the education and business sectors. It also extends certain provisions of the existing language law to businesses of 25 or more employees and limits enrolment at Quebec’s English-language junior colleges, known as CEGEPs.
Bill 96 also invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to shield the legislation from Charter challenges.
Premier François Legault described legislation as “moderate” earlier this week, saying it was his responsibility to protect the French language. Critics, meanwhile, argue the scope of the bill goes too far and could limit access to health care and justice.
In a statement, the EMSB said it supports protecting the French language but “measures to protect the French language in Quebec cannot violate the constitutional rights of Quebecers.”
Despite being broadcast live on the EMSB website, much of the meeting was held in camera or behind closed doors, meaning members of the press and the public were not privy to the discussions.
Some of those in attendance at the meeting did voice concerns about the school board taking on its own legal challenge, citing costs and time.