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EMSB pleased with latest Court of Appeal win on Bill 96

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Montreal - Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is pleased with two Court of Appeal rulings issued late Friday afternoon pertaining to Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec.

Court of Appeal Justice Geneviève Marcotte has rejected a challenge by the  CAQ government to a Quebec Superior Court decision rendered in April that provided the EMSB with a partial stay of provisions of Bill 96 and the Charter of the French language. That ruling also benefited other English language boards and the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA). In addition, the EMSB’s request to appeal the same Superior Court decision that declared English language school boards to be “school service centres” was granted, and will be heard by the Court of Appeal once the Superior Court has ruled on the rest of EMSB’s Bill 96 challenge. Seven of the eight other English boards, as well as the QESBA, joined the EMSB challenge.

“The fact that the Charter of the French Language requires English school boards to communicate exclusively in French when interacting with other English-speaking community organizations, including the QESBA  and the English Parents’ Committee Association of Quebec, never made any sense,” stated EMSB Chair Mr. Ortona. “I am pleased to see this injunction remain in place while we await a trial on the merits of the case.”

Mr. Ortona adds: “Let me be clear: the EMSB continues to embrace the French language, having pioneered the French immersion program.” 

In the April ruling, the Superior Court had concluded that the term “school service centres” in Bill 96 applied to English-language school boards. However, English-language school boards are not subject to Bill 40 and therefore are not school service centres. Bill 40, An Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance, would have transformed English language school boards into English-language school service centres. The nine boards were granted a stay from Bill 40 in 2020, which was confirmed by three judges of the Court of Appeal. Last August the Superior Court declared various provisions of the legislation unconstitutional and an appeal on the merits will likely be heard in 2025.

“We are English school boards, not school service centres like the French sector,” said Mr. Ortona. “It was important to once again make this abundantly clear.  Even  the Office québécois de la langue française and the Attorney General of Quebec’s lawyer acknowledged that there were legal inaccuracies in the judge’s analysis on the question.”

EMSB’s constitutional challenge to Bill 96 has been joined with the court challenges of other parties and is progressing through the court system and it is expected to be a lengthy process. Mr. Ortona explains that “this is partly why winning a stay is an important development, in order to avoid suffering irreparable harm while we wait.”

The EMSB is challenging Bill 96 notably on the basis that it violates the English-speaking community’s right to management and control of its educational institutions under s. 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

About the English Montreal School Board

With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English publicly-funded school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 73 schools and centres. The EMSB is proud to offer robust French immersion and bilingual programs. The EMSB is even more proud that many of its students have performed well above average, notably on ministerial exams, including the same ones administered in the French sector. For more details, visit the EMSB website at