Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand, together with Pierrefonds-Roxboro Mayor Monique Worth and councillor Frantz Benjamin, will introduce an emergency motion at Monday’s city council meeting to ask that the city support Pierrefonds-Roxboro in its fight to maintain its bilingual status, which could be under threat under the provisions of a proposed law, Bill 14, that would strip the right to a bilingual status from any borough or municipality whose English-speaking population falls below 50 per cent.
The Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough council unanimously passed a resolution last month opposing the new measures in Bill 14. About 31 per cent of the borough’s 68,000 residents list English as their mother tongue.
Pierrefonds-Roxboro “is the only bilingual borough of Montreal,” Rotrand said on Sunday. It has had the right to function bilingually since 1977 when the French Language Charter was passed, he said.
“This is an acquired right that we got when we were merged into the new city [of Montreal] on Jan. 1, 2002, and nobody is yelling and screaming to get rid of this status,” said Rotrand, an independent councillor. Under the French Language Charter, 89 cities and boroughs with English-speaking populations of 50 per cent or more qualified for the right to bilingual status.
Rotrand pointed out this month the mainly French-speaking South Shore municipality of Longueuil passed a resolution supporting the right of its borough Greenfield Park to maintain its bilingual status. Rotrand wants Montreal to be at least as stalwart in its support of Pierrefonds-Roxboro as Longueuil has been with Greenfield Park. “As far as I’m concerned, if Longueuil has spoken up, Montreal has to as well,” Rotrand said.
In its resolution, Longueuil argued Greenfield Park’s English-speakers were dynamic members of the borough’s community and that English is in fact an integral part of Longueuil’s identity and that of its citizens. The resolution also stated there could be no change in bilingual status without a resolution adopted by the borough.
“I thought that asking [Montreal] city council to affirm the Pierrefonds-Roxboro motion will carry much more weight with the government of Quebec,” Rotrand said.
On Wednesday, Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum through his spokesperson, Jonathan Abecassis, said city council would wait and see what amendments were made to Bill 14 before taking a stand.
“I’m not asking Montreal city council to pronounce itself on Bill 14 as a whole,” Rotrand said. “That’s outside the municipal domain. But as a municipality, we have a choice: To let a borough of 66,000 people fight this issue on its own or stand up for that borough and have 1.6 million people say this clause in Bill 14 has be withdrawn or modified.”
Rotrand said Bill 14 is part of the Parti Québécois government’s “agenda.” But, he said, “it’s an agenda that misses the large public consensus for linguistic peace. What makes my francophone friends uncomfortable are what they perceive as petty efforts to wipe out other presences and languages in Quebec.”
Such efforts, which include stripping acquired bilingual rights, are seen as “mean-spirited and in no way enhancing French,” Rotrand said.
If Montreal city council rejects the emergency motion Monday, Rotrand said he will table it. The motion will then appear automatically on the agenda for the March 18 city council meeting.