Merchants on trial contesting Bill 101 sign law

It's taken over a decade, but the trial of merchants fighting the sign law under the Charter of the French Language finally got underway at the Montreal courthouse this morning.

Most of the fines the merchants received relate to having signs with French and another language on them, mainly English, and the words in the two languages are the same size, which is illegal under the law,  or the French words are not predominant, as stipulated by the law.

Other fines relate to packaging or web content with languages other than French.

Lawyer Brent Tyler originally represented 86 companies but the Quebec government dropped the fines against nearly half of them. Four of the companies no longer exist, so 28 cases remain.

Some of the fines date back over 10 years but the merchants are really contesting the law which they argue is unacceptable and violate their Charter right to freedom of expression.

"It't our view that the French language is doing extremely well in Quebec. It doesn't need legislative coersion to support it. We're maintaining that the French language is not vulnerable in the province of Quebec to the point where it justifies infringing Charter rights," Tyler told reporters.

The fines back then were about $500 and now are four or five times the amount.

But Tyler said it's not about the fines.

"For my clients, it's very important issues relating to the Charter that are at stake. Whoever loses here will go to appeal, this case hopefully will end up in the Supreme Court one day, it takes a long time, seven years to get there but you've got to start somewhere and that's what we're doing today," Tyler said.

"What we want to prevent is state-sponsored harassment of small, Anglo merchants and we'll do that if the law is declared invalid."

The trial is scheduled for seven days.

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  1. Adam posted on 05/12/2014 03:23 PM
    I with the names of these merchants were listed, since I think like a lot of people I would like to give the my support morally as well as finically by doing business with them.

    A shame on the court for taking 10 years to hear these cases.
  2. SStM posted on 05/12/2014 05:59 PM
    The restrictions on the public use of minority languages imposed by the Quebec government's language laws are an embarrassment and humiliation to all but the smallest minded Quebec language supremacists. Forcing people to post signs where the "supreme" language is twice the size of minority languages is an absurdity. People who read French do not need everything in the "big print" child's version. That is insulting. The law could just as easily be satisfied by writing everything in French twice. Wouldn't that be a laugh too. As would requiring Bonjour to be said twice as loud as Hello. Those that support such infantile nationalism are the real Quebec bashers.
  3. Cutie003 posted on 05/12/2014 06:25 PM
    We're behind you 100% Brent! Thank you for all the work and let's hope this comes to an end - the quicker the better for the whole province and Canada!
  4. Emilie Donovan posted on 05/13/2014 09:26 AM
    First, if this law is valid in Quebec why than do the English speaking provinces have to display French? Second, if the law were more open and the people more friendly toward the English speaking population it might actually generate a spark of interest in the English people to learn about the Quebec French culture. If the Anglo merchants can encourage English tourism wouldn't learning about each other's cultures be a good thing to encourage longevity in both cultures?
  5. Michael Bradley posted on 05/13/2014 10:57 AM
    I hope the first thing they do is stress the fact that the English business community within Québec is actually an extremely small minority and therefore has little if any impact on the French language which represents over 90% of the population in this province. It is irrelevant if French is a minority within Canada or in North America. The companies are not situated in the English dominated regions in Canada nor anyway in North America but in the province of Québec.

    Therefore, to demand that a minority protect the interests and French language of a huge majority is unfair and unwarranted.
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