Montreal-area municipalities vote to keep bilingual status

Under Bill 96, which became law in June 2022, Quebec municipalities with an anglophone population that has dropped below 50 per cent must vote to maintain their bilingual status.         (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC - image credit)
Under Bill 96, which became law in June 2022, Quebec municipalities with an anglophone population that has dropped below 50 per cent must vote to maintain their bilingual status. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC - image credit)

The city councils of Kirkland and Otterburn Park and the Montreal borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro voted Monday evening to maintain their bilingual status.

The vote results, which in the case of Pierrefonds-Roxboro must still be confirmed by Montreal city council, mean the cities will be allowed to continue to communicate in both English and French and maintain a budget for bilingual services.

Under Bill 96, the reform of Quebec's French language law that passed in June 2022, municipalities where less than 50 per cent of residents speak English as their mother tongue lose their bilingual status unless their city councils vote to renew it.

In December, the Office québécois de la langue française, Quebec's language watchdog, issued notices to 47 bilingual boroughs, towns and cities giving them 120 days to pass a resolution to keep their status.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said last month she would support the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro's decision to maintain its bilingual status.

"We know where we live: we're in Quebec. We're in a francophone province," the borough mayor, Jim Beis, said Monday.

"Out of respect for our citizens that live here, we make sure that we put out that information in both languages so people understand and are more involved in community life."

Eric Lessard, a Pierrefonds-Roxboro resident, agreed that there is a need for the city to maintain its bilingual status so residents can continue to be active in the city's affairs.

"A lot of the citizens who ask questions here seem to be unilingually anglophone," he said. "So if you come here and you can't ask a question in English, and you can't be responded to English, how can you get the information you need?"

Mélanie Villeneuve, the mayor of Otterburn Park — a town of 8,500 on Montreal's South Shore — said at a council meeting that her municipality wants to keep its bilingual status so isolated seniors, many of whom are unilingual anglophones, would continue to receive communications in English.

"During last year's elections, we campaigned on our desire to improve communications with the anglophone population," she said, responding to a resident who did not want the city to renew its bilingual status. "There are many people who are happy about this decision — anglophones and francophones."

Longueuil's city council is expected to vote on the confirmation of bilingual status for Greenfield Park, one of the South Shore city's boroughs, later Tuesday.