Montreal lawyer Julius Grey to head legal team challenging Bill 96

Constitutional expert sees key areas he believes will not stand up to legal scrutiny

Almost as soon as the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s Bill 96 was passed into law on Tuesday last week, Montreal constitutional rights lawyer Julius Grey was announcing the creation of a legal team to contest the legislation updating the province’s 45-year-old Bill 101 language law.

Wide ranging measures

Montreal human rights and constitional lawyer Julius Grey will be leading a legal team to challenge the Quebec government’s Bill 96.

The sweeping measures contained in Bill 96 stand to affect everything under provincial jurisdiction, including immigration, education, health care, business, municipalities and the legal system.

Perhaps most controversially, the legislation grants the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) search and seizure powers without the need for a warrant to ensure compliance.

Long fight ahead

In several interviews with media since last week, Grey has said he expects a long and drawn-out fight over the constitutionality of Bill 96, possibly going beyond the Supreme Court of Canada to international courts.

Two days after the bill was passed in the National Assembly, the English Montreal School Board announced it would be launching a legal fight of its own, while the Quebec Community Groups Network, which represents dozens of English-language groups across Quebec, is also joining the fray.

QCGN’s position

“We will also be supporting upcoming legal challenges to the law, while ensuring that its nefarious impacts on Quebecers are brought to the public’s attention and are debated in the upcoming election campaign,” the organization led by Marlene Jennings said in a statement.

Although the exact nature of legal challenges to Bill 96 hasn’t yet been revealed, last week Julius Grey highlighted several important areas of Bill 96 that his legal team will probably be focusing on. Here are two of them:

‘We will also be supporting upcoming legal challenges to the law,’ says QCGN regarding its role in upcoming court contestations

Bill 96 would make citizens pay for French translations

According to Grey, the basic right to justice in Canada can’t be overruled by the notwithstanding clause, which the Legault government is relying on to pre-emptively defend Bill 96 against constitutional challenges. As such, he believes forcing people to pay to translate certain documents submitted to courts in Quebec won’t withstand a challenge.

● The OQLF could search lawyers’ and notaries’ offices

The OQLF monitors the use of French in Quebec at workplaces and in public settings, such as on signage. Although its powers are made greater in Bill 96, including searching business computers for materials that violate the language law, Grey believes some things in the work of lawyers and notaries must remain untouchable – including notaries’ or lawyers’ files – and abrogating this will not withstand a legal challenge.