The municipality of Ormstown may not have bilingual status, but the administration is working to accommodate its English-speaking citizens as best it can under the strict guidelines imposed by Bill 96.
“Ever since the law came into effect, we have been trying to figure out how to make it as easy as possible for citizens,” said communications coordinator Micheline Richard after the subject was raised during a public consultation meeting on August 29. “We are creating a register,” she confirmed, while suggesting the idea has been so popular, she automatically translates information so it will be available to those who request it.
“We can’t automatically send it,” explained Richard, because according to the law, residents must make a separate request each time they want to receive information in English. “But, this will make it easier,” she noted.
According to the 2021 Canadian census, only 31.3 per cent of Ormstown’s population identifies as having English as their mother tongue, which falls short of the 50-per cent threshold for bilingual status. As a result, the municipality is now legally prohibited from communicating in English, with exceptions for information pertaining to safety, security, or health emergencies.
The municipality also does not have historical bilingual status, as is the case for the municipalities of Havelock, Hemmingford County, Très-Saint-Sacrement, and Dundee, which all gained their status in 1978 along with Hinchinbrooke and Elgin.
“We don’t want to break the law, but we are able to voice our disapproval of it,” said Ormstown mayor Christine McAleer. “Nobody thought about what it was like to live in a small, rural community,” she continued, noting they are feeling the impact of the law within the municipality. Almost 10 per cent of the population identifies as unilingual English, and according to McAleer, the law is especially isolating for the senior community.
“Our citizens know it didn’t come from us,” said McAleer of the polarizing policy. She invites residents to communicate with the municipality to add their name to the register and to continue requesting information in English.