Bill 96 forces language into local politics: Chelsea unanimous in stand for bilingualism
At the February 7 Chelsea municipal council meeting, a unanimous resolution was passed to maintain Chelsea’s official bilingual status. This means they will continue to offer services in both French and English to their residents. According to the 2021 census, 47.8% of Chelsea’s population has English as their first language.
“The City Council considers it essential to maintain the recognition of bilingual status in the interest of the municipality and its residents,” said Chelsea Mayor, Pierre Guénard. “This diversity is rich, and we want to continue to serve our residents in their mother tongue.”
Bill 96 states that municipalities whose population has fewer than 50% with English as their mother tongue no longer meet the criteria to retain their bilingual status. To remain bilingual, a resolution must be passed within 120 days of receiving the notice from the Office Québécois de la Langue Française. Chelsea received the notice in December 2022, as did 47 other municipalities, towns, and cities in Quebec.
Chelsea will have to adopt a resolution to maintain bilingual status for each letter sent by the Office de la Langue Française.
“It’s very important; it is the history of Chelsea. For us, 47.8% of our population speaks English and keeping our bilingual status is respect for our community,” said Mayor Pierre. “The working language in Chelsea remains French. What the bilingual status gives us is that we ensure that all communication with citizens is in both languages and residents can be served in their first language.”
Photo credit: Lily Ryan, archives.
Photo caption: Chelsea Mayor, Pierre Guénard notes the municipality’s respect for the traditional bilingual existence of Chelsea residents made the decision to adopt the bilingualism resolution easy.