Caroline St-Hilaire wants Bill 101 amended to prohibit English in council

The mayor of Longueuil, Que., wants the province's Law 101 to be amended so no English can be spoken during the city council meeting.

'We are in Quebec and council meetings MUST happen in French,' she wrote in a Facebook post

Mayor Caroline St-Hilaire of Longueuil, Que., said it 'irritates' her when colleague Robert Myles speaks English during council meetings. (CBC)

The mayor of Longueuil, Que., wants the province to amend Bill 101 so no English can be spoken during city council meetings.

Caroline St-Hilaire told Radio-Canada that "holes" in the language law are what allows English to be spoken in the first place, and she'd like to see the law "corrected."

"Maybe, at some point, the Province of Quebec should re-examine the rules on how things happen in city councils," she told Radio-Canada's C'est Pas Trop Tot.

"The charter says we have the right to express ourselves in French. It doesn't say he can't express himself in English. That's the rub."

She also didn't mince words in a Facebook post about whether English should be spoken at council meetings.

"What irritates me about the opposition leader, and the president of the Greenfield Park borough, is that he insists on making Longueuil council bilingual," St-Hilaire wrote on Tuesday morning, referring to opposition leader Robert Myles, who translates everything he says at council meetings.

"It's simply a matter of common sense and respect: 96 per cent of the population of Longueuil understand French. There is no need to systematically translate everything to English when he speaks under the pretense that he wants to be understood by the general population."

She went on to say the city is not a bilingual administration, and she will keep it French only as long as she's mayor.

"We are in Quebec and council meetings MUST happen in French," she wrote.

St-Hilaire finished by wishing everyone a happy St-Jean-Baptiste Day, or La fête nationale, which is tomorrow in Quebec.

Responding to Robert Myles

Myles, Greenfield Park borough president, was interviewed by CBC Daybreak on Monday about the issue.

"The City of Longueuil is a French city, so whenever I get up to do my interventions, I always start in French. When I finish whatever I'm doing in French, I start in English," he said. 

Longueuil at a glance

  • Population 230,000.
  • 96 per cent understand French.
  • 3 per cent understand English only.
  • 1 per cent don't understand French or English.

Source: 2011 Canadian census

Myles said some councillors and St-Hilaire have commented on his use of English, saying Longueuil has a French-language status, meaning that councillors are only supposed to speak French during city council meetings.

Greenfield Park representative Robert Myles translates everything he says at city council meetings. (Radio-Canada)

At the May 12 council meeting, Myles spoke for 18 minutes — about 16 minutes longer than his counterparts. 

The length of his bilingual speeches irks some of his colleagues, but Myles doesn't think he's being excessive.

"I don't think so. Normally our council meetings finish before 10 o'clock," he said.

But some councillors are fed up with Myles's long-winded speeches. 

Sylvie Parent, from St-Hilaire's team, asked council president Nathalie Boisclair to clarify the official language of city council.

Myles said he respects Longueuil's French-language status — that's why he begins all of his comments in French.

Use of English at city council meetings in Longueuil has irked other colleagues as well. (Radio-Canada)

He said the boroughs of Greenfield Park, Longueuil and St-Hubert are home to many anglophones, and that Greenfield Park has a bilingual status, so that gives him the right to speak both languages at city council meetings.

Boisclair confirmed that English is permitted at city council meetings, as long as the primary language of discussion is in French. 

"We don't have the power to prohibit [English]," she said.

With files from Thomas Gerbet/Radio-Canada


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