EMSB votes to hire law firm and challenge Bill 96 in court

“Somebody has to show the government that we’re going to stand up and fight for what’s right,” Joe Ortona said.

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The English Montreal School Board has voted to challenge Bill 96 in court, commissioners decided Thursday night.

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At a special council meeting, the council of commissioners voted to retain the services of the Montreal firm Power Law to challenge the validity of Bill 96.

“I am ready to stand up and fight as an English language school board and institution and defend these rights that the government has decided to throw out the window,” said EMSB President Joe Ortona during of the Meeting. “Someone has to show the government that we are going to stand up and fight for what is right because if we don’t they will continue to erode our rights.”

Voted on Tuesday, Bill 96 modifies the charter of the French language.

Opponents say the law will erode English-language CEGEPs because of enrollment caps and the requirement that all students take three additional courses in French, making it harder for them to graduate. They are also concerned about the increased powers given to the province’s language watchdog, such as the power to search and seize without a warrant, and how the law could restrict access to English-language services in court and in the health care sector.

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After the meeting, Ortona said he was proud that the EMSB was the first group to commit to fighting the law.

“We have demonstrated once again that the council is committed to defending the rights of English-speaking Quebecers and minorities across Quebec,” he said. “This is terrible legislation. It treats English-speaking Quebecers as second-class citizens; it violates the rights of all Quebecers and essentially legalizes discrimination.

Ortona added that he believes the law also violates the constitutional right of Quebec’s English-speaking minority to run their own schools.

He said he expected other groups to join the challenge, but he didn’t want to wait for others to take action.

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Meanwhile, around 400 people gathered to protest the law at Place du Canada on Thursday evening.

The rally was a sober affair, but those who spoke swore to fight the law.

“We will fight at all levels of the courts,” said human rights lawyer Julius Gray. “We will fight it in Superior Court; we will fight it before the Court of Appeal; we will fight in the Supreme Court; we will fight at the United Nations. And I’ll remind you that the last time (former Prime Minister Robert) Bourassa used the notwithstanding clause, we won at the United Nations.

“We will fight for an open, French but tolerant and friendly Quebec where everyone will have their place.

Quebec Community Groups Network President Marlene Jennings said the final rally on May 14, when thousands marched from Dawson College to Premier Francois Legault’s office downtown, was a turning point for the opposition to the law, and since then more and more people have come out to denounce it. She said that’s why it’s important to come out and speak out against the law.

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On Thursday, the Washington Post published an opinion piece criticizing the law, saying that “the plan to make Quebec a homogeneous French-speaking nation is now the goal to which everything else is officially subordinate.”

Alana Baskind, who attended the rally, had tears in her eyes as she explained why she was against the law.

“I’m very sad; I don’t feel welcome anymore,” she said. “I feel like everything I love about this province is taken away from me. fight, and that’s why I’m here. We have to fight against that.

Gounash Pirniya, who arrived in Montreal from Iran 10 years ago, said she didn’t feel welcome either.

“Although I love living in Montreal, I think I can’t live here anymore,” she said. “It may sound like protecting the French language, but I think they literally want to kick out anyone who doesn’t speak French. I came to Canada to have the freedom of choice, because I feel that these are the values ​​we had in Quebec. Now, I see that these values ​​are not respected at all.

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Kevin Deer, a spokesperson for the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, also weighed in.

“The Legault government must understand that it has a commercial relationship with us based on peace, friendship and respect,” he said. “This has been (our) territory since time immemorial. You don’t have the right to replace us. You are not God. You are not superior to us. You can’t just wield your power because you think you have the power in numbers. It’s all Mohawk territory, and if our kids want to come here, they shouldn’t be forced to speak another language.

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