TMR bows to OQLF pressure
By Diodora Bucur and Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban
The Town of Mount Royal has obeyed a demand by Quebec’s language police and has covered up the English on its bilingual street signs.
Recently, every street sign in T.M.R. had the English part painted black despite the town’s bilingual status.
Mayor Vera Danyluk says the signs were covered up in response to a warning two months ago from the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), one in a series of threats over the last 17 years by the OQLF to take legal action if the English wasn’t removed.
“We received a court order saying that if we didn’t take them off we would have to go to court and pay a fine that would have been determined by the courts,” said Danyluk, who admitted the decision angered a number of T.M.R. residents. “People think we should fight it. I know it’s irritating, it’s disturbing to citizens... But the language debate is over. It was such a waste of time, energy and money — and our young people are all bilingual or trilingual.”
Danyluk said the council ruled out the possibility of changing the signs because that would have cost taxpayers about $50,000.
“We have bilingual status, but for outdoor signs we still have to be in conformity with the language laws, which means we could have only French or if we put English it has to be half the size of French,” she continued. “We figured it’s not worth it to start changing all the signs, so the only alternative was to paint out the English version and just leave the French version.”
However, Danyluk downplayed suggestions her council’s move sets a precedent. “They can’t use us as a precedent, they can only use the law as legal basis.”
Côte St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather, and former president of English-rights group Alliance Quebec, says his city received its last legal warning in 2002 but did not heed their demand.
“We never heard from them again.”
Housefather, a lawyer by profession, disagreed with the interpretation of the law that English on street signs must be smaller than French.
“The French being predominant is not ‘marked predominance’. In the case of commercial [signs], there’s a requirement for marked predominance, which means the French has to be bigger than the English, or the French has to be mentioned more often.
“In the case of municipalities or hospitals, there’s not that requirement. The only requirement is that the French be predominant, which could easily be interpreted as French being to the left, or above, the English. If that interpretation [T.M.R. is using] is true, then all of the signs we have in our hospitals — the Jewish General, Montreal Children’s, St. Mary’s — would also all be wrong, because that’s the way they do their signs and that’s the way Hampstead, Côte St. Luc and other cities do their signs.”
Former T.M.R. councillor Sidney Margles, now a Côte St. Luc resident, was surprised at the town’s action.
“It’s regrettable, because I always understood that the town was a bilingual community, and as such, was entitled to have bilingual signs as is the case in a number of other island suburbs,” he said.
Margles said that during his time on council, there were a couple of instances in which the OQLF demanded T.M.R. change its street signs.
“Those requests were rejected at the time, because we were considered a bilingual community. We did not receive any [further demands].”
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
We broke the story last week and today The Suburban weekly newspaper is covering the authorized vandalism of TMR street signs. Read the article here or see below.