Quebec municipality paints over English on street signs
Last Updated: Friday, July 7, 2006 | 9:52 AM ET
For the first time in 20 years, Montreal's Town of Mount Royal has French-only street signs after painting over the English words.
That move came after a bitter dispute with the province's Office de la langue française (OLF).
All of which has left the mayor of the nearby bilingual municipality of Côte Saint-Luc confused. He says he won't give in to pressure from the language police and can't figure out why Mount Royal backed down.
"It's absolutely baffling that they would remove the English language that is part of the history of Town of Mount Royal," said Mayor Anthony Housefather.
"I mean, I don't want to ascribe motives to a council, but it seems to me to be a very foolish thing to have done."
Housefather said bilingual municipalities have the right to put up bilingual signs, as long as the French portion is to the left or at the top of the sign.
He said Côte Saint-Luc received the same warning as Mount Royal did from the OLF in 2002.
But the city refused to change, and it hasn't heard back from the language watchdog.
The OLF is also puzzled about Mount Royal's decision to paint over the English words. It thinks the city overacted.
"They could have erected these signs in both French and in English as long as the French is predominating," said OLF spokesman Gerald Paquette.
He said the city just needed to make some slight changes to the signs.
Mount Royal mayor Vera Danyluk says the language police have been hounding her city because the signs didn't comply with the Charter of the French Language.
Danyluk said the city was tired of fighting with the OLF, so it hired municipal workers to paint over the English words.
"Well, [it's] not that we threw in the towel," she said. "We feel that there are so many important things we should be doing in our municipality to improve the quality of life for our citizens."
Danyluk said the fight over the bilingual signs is petty and narrow-minded, and a waste of money.
However, the Côte Saint-Luc mayor said covering up the English on street signs sends the wrong message to anglophone youth in the community.
Housefather said it's an issue that crosses municipal boundaries, and bilingual municipalities should stick together.
"Côte Saint-Luc will keep bilingual signs, and it's gonna be over my dead body that we ever take off the English from our signs while I'm mayor of Côte Saint Luc."
TMR removes English from street signs
Bilingual street signs in TMR are now a thing of the past.
TMR has blacked out English words on its street signs.
The city had received a warning from the Office de la Langue Francaise, that words like "street" and "crescent" were illegal.
The city says that painting over the words was less expensive than replacing all the signs.
TMR should leave English on signs: Housefather
The Mayor of Cote-Saint-Luc says T.M.R. should never have blacked out English from its municipal signs.
The Town of Mount Royal bowed to pressure from the Office de la Langue Francaise, which sent a letter telling it that words such as "street" and "crescent" are illegal.
But Cote Saint Luc mayor Anthony Housefather says its the first time he's ever heard of a city with billingual status removing the Engish from its signs.
"That sign is perfectly legal under Section 24 of the French Language Charter (Bill 101), which says that billingual municipalities can erect signs in both languages," Housefather told The New 940 Montreal.
"The French being predominant in municipal signs is not the market predominance that [is required] in commercial signs where the French has to be bigger."
T.M.R. says it chose to paint over the signs instead of replacing them because its less expensive.
According to the CBC, the Town of Mount Royal, a very posh little enclave on the north side of the mountain in Montreal, has
caved in to the Office de la langue francaise and painted over the English on its bilingual street signs.
This goes farther than the OLF demand that French be predominant, and seems to be an act of pique on the part of the town council. Given the reaction of neighbouring Cote-Saint-Luc, which is retaining its bilingual signs given similar warnings,
this seems like an outburst of exasperation on the part of TMR authorities, who are tired of the language police measuring the size of the English on their signs. Personally, I think it's a bad decision - better to continue to work within the margins of the law, than completely abandon the right to use English in addition to French.
I'm still working through my thoughts from my stay in Ireland, where I participated in an international conference on language law and language rights. At that conference, I was exposed to a whole host of different national, regional and
international attempts to protect and promote minority languages, with widely varying degrees of success. To make matters more interesting, the Galway conference was itself a microcosm of language promotion, with simultaneous interpretation
provided in English, French and Irish, with many of the session chairs from NUI Galway - all of them fluent in English - speaking in Irish to a crowd lacking any Irish-speakers. The challenge of revitalizing the Irish language makes promotion of French in Canada seem easy, and I'll have more on that in a future post.
Monday, July 10, 2006
More news coverage of the TMR street sign story
You'll recall that I broke this TMR-street-sign-self-censorship-story on July 1, 2006. Here are are stories from other news organizations.