Town of Sutton follows through with commitment to maintain its bilingual status

A bird's eye view of Sutton's downtown core.
The Town of Sutton has announced its budget for 2023. Photo courtesy of the Town of Sutton.
Taylor McClure - CIDI - KnowltonQC | 20-01-2023
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Under Quebec’s Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101, article 29.1 explains that municipalities with more than 50% of its citizens identifying English as their mother tongue, health and social institutions that serve the majority of their clientele in English, and other bodies, such as English language school service centres, are able to draw up notices, communications, signs, posters, documents, clinical records, etc. that can be provided in both French and English.  

This became known as recognizing the “bilingual status” of these municipalities, institutions, and bodies. 

According to Éducaloi, an organization that works in legal education and legal communication for the benefit of all Quebecers, the Charter of the French Language was adopted by the provincial government in 1977 with the goal of preserving the status of the French language. 

The Charter also made French Quebec’s official language when it comes to government, education, commerce and the workplace.

Last summer, the provincial government adopted Bill 96, Quebec’s new language law that amended the Charter of French the Language. 

Under Bill 96, a municipality that had its bilingual status recognized under Bill 101 that that no longer meets the requirements under section 29.1 will receive a written notice from the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) informing them of the situation. 

If the municipality adopts a resolution within 120 days of receiving the notice and informs the OQLF, its bilingual status is maintained. If it fails to do so, its bilingual status is lost and communications, tax receipts, signs, documents, etc., provided to citizens by the town can only be provided in French. 

According to the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) website, there  were 93 “municipal organizations” (a term used by the (OQLF) in Quebec that held a bilingual status, 19 of which were located in the Eastern Townships.

CIDI had the opportunity to sit down with mayor for the Town of Brome Lake Richard Burcombe last week after council unanimously passed a resolution to maintain the municipality’s bilingual status. 

Today, CIDI had the chance to catch up with mayor for the Town of Sutton Robert Benoît about his council’s decision to take the same step in maintaining its bilingual status despite a dip in the number of people that report English as their mother tongue. 

“It’s important, first of all, for historical reasons. This village was developed first by English settlers, American settlers, Loyalists as we call them, so there is a lot of history behind it,” said Benoît. 

Benoît continued to explain that the English-speaking population has gone down "tremendously" during the last 15 to 20 years.

“Even though to get recognized you have to vote for it if you are under 50%, we decided even at 26% it was important for historical reasons, but also for the present  and the future because the English-speaking community is contributing enormously,” noted Benoît. 

Benoît explained that Sutton has two populations: permanent residents and those with secondary homes in the village. 

“That 26% of Anglophones, if you look only at the permanent residents, is probably more that 26%. (…) It’s just a way of getting services to the population in their own language,” he mentioned. “It’s part of the culture of the town; you come in, you’re English, you ask an employee in English, we will give those services in your language.”

Benoît added that the municipality wants to make sure that at least all of the basic information and the most important documents put together by the town to be translated. 

“We think that is fundamental for a town that wants to be near its community. (…) For the French people, in their every day life, it doesn’t change anything for them. We don’t keep anything from them, it’s life as usual. The spirit is that it’s a value that we have set forth this year; inclusivity,” he said. 

Listen to the full interview below: