The June edition of the Info Municipal newsletter, published by the municipality of Godmanchester, included a note stating that in compliance with Bill 96, future editions of the newsletter would only be available in French. The information available on the English section of the municipality’s website is now limited.
Godmanchester is not recognized as having bilingual status by the provincial government, despite 38 per cent of its population identifying as English-speaking in the 2021 Canadian census. According to several measures included in the Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec, which came into force on June 1, municipalities without status must now communicate and offer services unilingually in French.
English-speaking residents in Godmanchester may request services in English if they qualify for an exception under the new law.
In response to the application of Bill 96, Godmanchester residents Jackie Lamb and her partner Shawn McNamee have launched a petition “to ensure that municipal documents, services, and information are available to all citizens of Godmanchester in English and French.” The couple started the Facebook group “Ensemble pour Godmanchester – Together for Godmanchester” and have been going door-to-door to obtain signatures over the past two weeks. As of press time, at least 375 people had signed.
“Godmanchester is better than petty language divisions,” says Lamb, who suggests people deserve to have a choice when it comes to which language is “best for them.” She says the decision to canvas door-to-door for signatures is important. “There is nothing like human connection,” she explains, noting the reaction to the petition has been positive.
Lamb plans to present the petition during the next council meeting scheduled in Godmanchester for July 3.