The Gleaner

Municipalities opt to retain their bilingual status

The municipalities of Dundee, Havelock, Très-Saint-Sacrement, and Hemmingford Township received letters from the Office québécoise de la Langue Française (OQLF) in December, warning that according to the most recent census data, their populations no longer meet the “50 per cent mother-tongue English speakers” required to allow bilingual status, according to Bill 96.

An additional 43 municipalities in danger of losing their status received similar letters before the holidays. At least 44 other municipalities currently recognized as having official bilingual status, including Elgin and Hinchinbrooke, did not receive letters, and are not in danger of losing their status for at least another five years.

As per several new provisions introduced into the Charter of the French language with the ascension of Bill 96 (“An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec”), the municipalities have 120 days from the receipt of the letter to adopt a resolution declaring their intent to retain their bilingual status. Municipalities that fail to pass a resolution within this timeframe will see their status officially withdrawn.

According to demolinguistic data from the 2021 federal census, only 31.2 per cent of the Dundee population reported English as their mother tongue. The percentage of the English-speaking population in Havelock was recorded at 26.5 per cent, while 44.1 per cent of the population of Très-Saint-Sacrement and 33.1 per cent of those living in the Township of Hemmingford consider English to be their mother tongue.

In Dundee, a resolution was unanimously adopted on July 5, 2021, following the introduction of Bill 96 in the National Assembly in May. The resolution states that for over 40 years, the Charter of the French Language has recognized the bilingual status of the Township of Dundee, which affords the municipality the right to provide its services to the population in both French and English.

“The council would like to preserve this status in order to protect the rights of more than 30 per cent of its population, the founding English-speaking community of the municipality,” says Marc Michot, the director general and clerk-treasurer for the municipality of Dundee. He confirms a copy of the resolution was sent to the OQLF upon receipt of the letter.

In advance of the warning from the OQLF, the municipality of Havelock passed a resolution to maintain its ability to serve the English-speaking population by retaining its bilingual status, during the regular council meeting on December 5, 2022. A similar resolution was adopted by the council in Très-Saint-Sacrement before the start of the new year. Mayor Agnes McKell confirms a copy of the council’s decision will sent to the OQLF this week.

Finally, a resolution to maintain the bilingual status of Hemmingford Township was listed on the agenda of the first regular municipal council meeting of 2023, scheduled for January 9.

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