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COMMENTARY: Quebec’s new language law faces one of its first challenges in front of a judge

One of the first challenges to Bill 96 has begun in a Montreal court.

A coalition is seeking an injunction of the application of two sections of the law before they come into effect in September. The two sections, 9 and 208.6, require corporations or legal persons to have all their court documents translated into French.

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“Our view is that that translation requirement is unconstitutional and it violates section 133 of the Constitution Act of 1867,” explained Adam Sternthal, one of the plaintiffs.

Section 133 of the act says the English or French language may be used “by any person or in any pleading or process in, or issuing from any court of Canada established under this act, and in or from all or any of the courts of Quebec.”

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The group challenging Bill 96 in court is asking for a legal review. On Friday lawyers argued for a stay in the application of those sections of the law while the arguments are being heard.

They believe fighting the law in court is in the public interest since the law could lead to less trust the justice system.

“They’re losing confidence in the judicial system,” said lead plaintiff Douglas Mitchell. “Delays are a cause of that and costs are a part of that and this is just going to add cost and delays.”

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Members of the Kahnawake Mohawk Council were also present and they say these sections of the law could adversely affect small businesses if they’re forced to translate documents before going to court.

“Cost could affect a business decision whether or not to move forward,” Council Chief Tonya Perron told reporters.

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Lawyers for the government say the law is necessary for the protection of the French language.

The judge expects to decide within a week whether to grant a stay in the application of the two sections.

Sternthal and other plaintiffs said they believe there will be other challenges to the controversial bill and are trying to raise funds to cover legal expenses for any challenge, subject to certain criteria.

“We’re trying to raise $300,000,” he told Global News. “We launched it five days ago and we have already raised around $50,000.”

They’re appealing to the public for help.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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