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French still under threat in Quebec, judge finds in Bill 101 case

01/28/2015 12:50 EST | Updated 03/30/2015 05:59 EDT
A Quebec court judge on Wednesday ruled that the French language is still in danger and that 24 business owners failed to respect provincial signage laws covered in Bill 101.

On Wednesday, Quebec court judge Salvatore Mascia upheld a 1988 Supreme Court ruling that French must be the predominant language on commercial signs and promotional material.

Anglophone-rights lawyer Brent Tyler is representing a group of 24 business owners who say they were unfairly targeted by the Office québécois de la langue française's application of signage laws between 1998 and 2001.

"Greater visual perception of the French language in signs is of vital importance," Mascia said in his ruling.

Twenty-three of Tyler's 24 class-action clients were fined on Wednesday for disobeying the rules for displaying French on store signs. One was acquitted on Wednesday because his minor infraction was deemed "insignificant."

The OQLF dropped the charges against 52 other business owners who were originally part of the class. 

Quebec's linguistic landscape

Tyler's contention is that French is no longer in danger of disappearing in Quebec, and that language laws should be relaxed as a result.

"We realize in Quebec [that] language legislation will always be necessary. The challenge is to find legislation that is in conformity with the charter, Tyler told Daybreak host Mike Finnerty Wednesday morning.

"At the heart of the issue is whether or not the French language is vulnerable to the point that it justifies the overriding of rights.”

He disagreed with the judge's assertion that a growing number of allophones in Montreal means language of use is trending away from French.

"That is a bogus consideration," Tyler said, pointing out that it's just one of many factors at play in the province's linguistic landscape.

Tyler told Daybreak that his clients are willing to stay the course through the appeals process, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

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