Bilingual traffic sign petition concludes with nearly 7,000 signatures

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The petition calling on the Quebec government to install bilingual traffic safety signs, as allowed by the province’s language law, ended March 2 with close to 7,000 signatures.

According to the petition page on the National Assembly website, 6,938 people signed online, and 46 people signed a paper petition, adding up to at least 6,984 names.

There was an apparent discrepancy as late on the night of March 2, the petition page listed 6,979 signatures. We were told by MNA David Birnbaum’s office that 41 were removed because of duplicates.

The petition, which will be presented in the National Assembly March 14, was created by Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss and Côte St. Luc Councillor Ruth Kovac, and sponsored by Birnbaum. Kovac and Staviss will be in the National Assembly as the petition will be presented.

Staviss and Kovac were pleased with the support shown for bilingual traffic signs, including electronic signs which provide safety alerts such as smog warnings, accidents on highways and other advisories.

Staviss thanked Birnbaum and his bureau chief Elisabeth Prass for their support and guidance.

“One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that safety should be more important than language,” Staviss added. “Unfortunately in the province of Quebec, the protection of the French language far outweighs everything, even safety.

“The Charter of the French Language clearly states that for reasons of health or public safety, the French inscription on traffic signs may be complemented or replaced by symbols or pictographs, and another language may be used where no symbol or pictograph exists,” he pointed out. “All we are asking for is what the Charter of the French language allows. Having signage dealing with health or public safety, in both French and English, is definitely not going to diminish or threaten the French language in any manner whatsoever. The time to be safer, courteous and more welcoming is now. Since Ontario has bilingual traffic signage, so should Quebec.”

Kovac said the majority Liberal government should “take a bold step and override the OQLF stranglehold on signage .

“Whereas various levels of government are also advertising in English only, inviting Americans to celebrate our different birthdays (Montreal’s and Canada’s), it makes sense that getting here be safer and clearer,” she added. “It no way diminishes the French language. It’s about time we recognize that we live in a global community. I am hopeful that MNAs from across Quebec will look at this through a 2017 lens and recognize the benefits of bilingual signage.”

Environment Canada tornado tweets stalled by language laws

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Ottawa developing software to tweet warnings in French and English simultaneously

Meteorologists in the United States use Twitter to push weather warnings to the public, but that doesn’t happen in Canada — official bilingualism has proved a barrier to weather warning tweets. (CBC News) More


In my opinion: This is beyond ridiculous. Rather than alert some, if not most, of imminent danger right away, officialdom requires the government to notify no one, for a while.

In Quebec, so many government agencies and municipalities don’t bother with a single word in English in any social media or online messaging, not even for public safety purposes.

At least the Canadian government uses both languages. But don’t delay emergency alerts when one language is ready and the other takes a few more minutes. A little common sense, in either language, would go a long way to protect Canadians!

Once the new simultaneous software is up and running perhaps they could share it with the Quebec government and cities. Hydro Quebec can’t be bothered to show respect to its English language clients on Twitter and the Montreal Fire Department has been promising for 10 years to find a translator for its online communications. C’mon folks. Where’s the outrage? Your life may depend on it?

Letter: Stop asking whether Montreal is a ‘French city’?


Letter to the editor

Montreal Gazette, August 2,2013

Is Montreal a French city? This is not the right question.

The media should stop asking Montreal mayoral candidates “Is Montreal a French city?” The question is imprecise and allows the candidates to skate around the issue. Their pat answer is some formulation of: “Montreal is a French city. But bilingualism is a great asset to Montreal.”

What’s wrong with the question?

First, Montreal is not a “French city.” It is a Quebec city (or a Canadian city, or a North American city). France abandoned its former colony long ago. Yes, I’m being pedantic, but my goal is a clear question.

A more precise question would be “Is Montreal a French-speaking city.” But even this could be interpreted as a question related to census data.

What reporters really want to know is the candidate’s position on municipal services. The question they should be asking is: “Ought the municipal government of Montreal provide bilingual services to residents, without them having to ask for it.”

The question, asked in this way, leaves no room for misinterpretation. It’s not about identity or demographics, but about public policy, which is the business of elected leaders.

This is the question the media should be asking the Montreal mayoral candidates.

And voters should pay close attention to their answers.

Darryl Levine


© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette


In my opinion:

Darryl Levine makes an excellent point. The fact is Montreal is not a French city having shed its colonial past hundreds of years ago. Another fact is that census figures show that Montreal is a very bilingual, indeed multilingual city – far from being uniquely a French-speaking city.

However, should residents of this multilingual city be entitled to receive services in one of two official languages? The answer is perfectly clear to anyone unshackled by Quebec political doublespeak.

National Post Comment on language police

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Barbara Kay has an excellent commentary on the Office quebecoise de la langue francaise, otherwise infamous as the language police or tongue troopers.

She sums up her blasting of Quebec’s linguistic intolerance as follows:

The only beneficiaries of this fiasco will be Sainte Agathe’s ducks. Henceforth the signs forbidding people to feed them, up to now in English as well as French, must be in French only. I daresay that will mean a lot of extra breadcrusts thrown to them by law-abiding unilingual tourists who haven’t got a clue what “Défendu de nourrir les canards” means.

The ominous rigidity and totalitarian attention to detail of the Office reminds one of the soulless Inspector Javert in Les Misérables. Javert is so consumed by his obsession with the law that he has forgotten what it is to be a human being. And we all know what happened to the Inspector. Unable to reconcile the fact that there are times in life when compassion, human fellowship and morality conflict with the Law, he committed suicide.

Read Barbara Kay’s Full Comment.

Globe and Mail letters: Linguistic purity

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Globe and Mail, Letters, Jan. 18, 2013.  Click to enlarge.

Globe and Mail, Letters, Jan. 18, 2013. Click to enlarge.

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Globe Editorial: Quebec’s language laws reach a new low in Sainte-Agathe

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The Globe and Mail, Jan. 18, 2013

Quebec’s language laws have long been controversial and a source of antagonism, but their implementation still has the power to annoy and shock. That’s the case with the announcement that a quaint Quebec town has reluctantly agreed to comply with an order from a language inspector to stop including one page of English-language information in its monthly bulletin to ratepayers. It’s an order so petty and unnecessary that it amounts not to the protection of a language but to an ominous government overreach into common courtesy and mutual respect.


The story takes place in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, pop. 10,000, a bedroom and service town in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal. It’s a mostly French place; at 5 per cent of the population, English-speakers only number about 500. But they have been an integral part of local history, as evidenced by the presence of an Anglican church and a synagogue. The town has even erected plaques honouring anglophones’ contribution.


With only one person in 20 speaking English, it cannot reasonably be argued that the order to stop publishing a small corner of the town bulletin in English has heroically staved off the imminent obliteration of the French language in Sainte-Agathe. The order will, in fact, have no impact whatsoever on the health of the French language anywhere in Quebec.


Its sole result has been to expose the penny-ante excesses of the province’s language laws. From the mayor on down, francophones in Sainte-Agathe have reacted with dismay to the order. They don’t like being forced by their government to insult and marginalize their neighbours. The mayor, thankfully and tellingly, has found a work-around, promising to continue to provide English-language information on the town website, and to publish the information excised from the bulletin in the local English-language newspaper.


Martin Bergeron, a spokesman for the Office québécois de la langue française, counter-argues that if everything is bilingual, then French isn’t the official language of the province. But Sainte-Agathe was never bilingual. Its municipal government simply preserved a proportionate part of its official life in English out of respect for a cherished minority population. The people who enforce Quebec’s language laws have good examples to follow in the townsfolk of Sainte-Agathe, but instead continue to choose to pursue the narrowest and most mean-spirited avenue open to them.


Council speaks out against Bill 14, supports bilingual status quo


Cote Saint-Luc City Council lead the charge last night against Quebec’s draft Bill 14 which would severely punish more than 65 remaining bilingual cities and towns.  The much criticized draft legislation threatens much of Quebec’s anglophone communities with losing its bilingual status permitting communication with residents in their preferred  “official” language.

Mayor Anthony Housefather, a former president of the once powerful and influential English-language rights lobby group, Alliance Quebec, took a leadership role in drafting the following resolution.  The Council felt so strongly about supporting the resolution that they took the unprecedented procedure of all seconding the motion simultaneously.




Whereas the Charter of the French Language (“Charter”) was adopted by the Quebec National Assembly in 1977, and over 80 municipalities throughout the Province of Quebec were recognized as having “bilingual status” pursuant to the provisions of Section 29.1 of the Charter; and

Whereas the original provisions of the Charter allowed those municipalities that had a majority of residents who spoke a language other than French to be officially recognized under Section 29.1; and

Whereas the City of Côte Saint-Luc has been recognized as having bilingual status under Section 29.1 of the Charter since 1977 and wishes to retain such “bilingual status”; and

Whereas currently the Charter does not allow the recognition of “bilingual status” under Section 29.1 to be removed from a municipality or borough except at the request of such municipality or borough; and

Whereas the Quebec National Assembly adopted Bill 170 imposing forced municipal mergers on municipalities in 2000 and simultaneously adopted companion legislation Bill 171 which drastically changed the criteria to obtain recognition under Section 29.1 of the Charter, from a majority of residents of a municipality or borough who spoke a language other than French to a majority of residents whose mother tongue was English; and

Whereas the revised criteria, under Bill 171, was imposed without consultation with municipalities recognized under Section 29.1 and adopted the narrowest and most inaccurate definition of the English-speaking communities within said municipalities or boroughs; and

Whereas the current Quebec Government has now proposed Bill 14, which would allow for the removal of Section 29.1 recognition from municipalities or boroughs by decree and against the will of the municipality or borough concerned, its duly elected council and its residents; and

Whereas the City of Côte Saint-Luc is firmly opposed to the proposed amendments to Section 29 of the Charter as set out in Bill 14


It was moved by Mayor Anthony Housefather, second by the entire city council and resolved:


THAT The City of Côte Saint-Luc hereby declares that it wishes to retain its “bilingual status” recognition under Section 29.1 of the Charter now and in the future and wishes to do so irrespective of any fluctuations in its population shown in census numbers now or in the future.

THAT The residents and Council of the City of Côte Saint-Luc view the recognition of our municipality under Section 29.1 as fundamental to the character of the municipality and as a testament of the historical presence of both the English- and French-speaking communities in the municipality;

THAT The City of Côte Saint-Luc vigorously opposes the proposed modifications to Section 29 of the Charter set out in Bill 14 and demands that the Quebec National Assembly continue to recognize the acquired rights of all municipalities and boroughs that currently possess such status and refrain from adopting any legislation that allows Section 29.1 recognition of bilingual status to be removed from a municipality or borough except at the initiative of and express request of said municipality or borough.



THAT The City of Côte Saint-Luc calls upon all of the members of the Quebec National Assembly to remove the provisions of Bill 14 that propose to amend Section 29 of the Charter or to vote against and defeat such provisions since we view such provisions as an attack on the fundamental rights and intrinsic character of all municipalities and boroughs that currently possess Section 29.1 recognition.



THAT The City of Côte Saint-Luc directs its clerk to send copies of this resolution to

all of members of the Quebec National Assembly, to all other municipalities in Quebec officially recognized under Section 29.1 of the Charter and to the local federal member of Parliament and the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada and the UMQ, FQM and FCM.


Letter to the Gazette Editor: Lisée’s comments on Bill 14 fail to comfort

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Letter: Lisée’s comments on Bill 14 fail to comfort


Re: “Quebec municipalities would not lose bilingual status automatically” (Gazette online, Dec. 10)

Thanks, Jean-François Lisée, for trying to reassure me and the rest of the anglo population that the English-language is well protected by Bill 14 and the OQLF language police, but I’d still like to see this draft bill flushed away.

As Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather pointed out in his opinion piece published in The Gazette last week, the government takes a very narrow perspective on language by using “mother-tongue” rather than language used in the home or preferred language.

What’s the real reason for making political decisions based upon the language of one’s mother (and father) that often doesn’t reflect the reality of the language spoken in one’s home today?

Most English-speaking Quebecers would hardly trust the OQLF to decide at what critical mass a municipality or institution would lose its bilingual status. Leave that decision to those affected. The current law leaves the bilingual status with the city council, just as it should. A few bilingual towns communicating effectively with its constituents will have no important bearing on preserving the French language.

Enough with sugar coating the bitter pill of narrow-minded and mean-spirited policy.

Glenn J. Nashen


Côte Saint-Luc




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Quebec municipalities would not lose bilingual status automatically if anglo population falls below 50 per cent: Lisée

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Quebec municipalities that see their anglophone populations drop below 50 per cent will not lose their bilingual status automatically, says the minister responsible for Montreal.


Moving to ease fears, Jean-François Lisée said even if a city’s anglophone population slipped, there would be “discussion” about what’s actually happening before any decision is taken.


“It’s not because a population slips by one per cent (below 50 per cent) that its (status) gone,” Lisée said, answering a question after a speech to the young chamber of commerce for Montreal.


Presenting a new Charter of the French Language last week, the government gave itself the power to revoke bilingual status.


Lisée said there is nothing automatic about it, and there would be negotiations and close examination of census data even if the number dropped to 40 per cent.




Read more:


In my opinion:  

Thanks Mr. Lisée for trying to reassure me and the rest of the Anglo population of Quebec but I’d still like to see this draft bill flushed away.

As Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather pointed out in his opinion piece published in the Gazette last week the real issue is that the government takes a very narrow perspective on language by using “mother-tongue” rather than language used in the home or preferred language.  What’s the real reason for making political decisions based upon the language of one’s mother (and father) that often doesn’t reflect the reality of the language spoken in one’s home today?

The fact that 18% of Cote Saint-Lucers have listed French as their mother tongue, 44% English and 38% other languages is far less important as to what percentage prefer to use which language which is much closer to a 75% English / 25% French split.  

Most English-speaking Quebecers  would hardly trust the OQLF to decide at what critical mass a municipality or institution would lose its bilingual status.  Leave that decision to those affected.  A few bilingual towns communicating effectively with its constituents will have no important bearing on preserving the French language.

Enough with sugar coating the bitter pill of narrow-minded and mean-spirited policy.


New law imperils English in suburbs

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Henry Aubin: New law imperils English in suburbs

Loss of bilingual status is a devastating blow and a barrier to business


The Marois government’s proposed law to tighten the Charter of the French Language would deal a truly devastating blow to most of the 65 municipalities in Quebec that possess official bilingual status. The bill would strip this designation from a town if fewer than 50 per cent of its residents have English as their mother tongue.

Six of the 12 suburbs on Montreal Island that now offer services in French and English would lose the legal ability to continue to do so in English. They are Côte-St-Luc, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Dorval, Kirkland, Mont-Royal and Senneville. (See table.)

Four other suburbs, whose English mother-tongue residents are steadily declining and now represent less than 55 per cent of the population, are on course to falling under the threshold within a few years. They are Baie d’Urfé, Beaconsfield, Pointe-Claire and Westmount. Hampstead and Montreal West, both of which are near the 60-per-cent mark, are safer ground. (The island’s two remaining suburbs, Montréal-Est and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, do not have bilingual status.)

Municipalities not on the island would tend to lose their status at a considerably higher rate. Many of these mostly rural towns or villages have aging anglo communities.

(The government would determine whether a city or town is above or below the 50 per cent bar on the basis of Statistic Canada’s census. However, it is unclear how the government would define people with English as their mother tongue. Most people have only one language as their mother tongue, but others list two or even more on the census form, depending the circumstances of their infancy. The table gives figures for both options.)

The proposed law, Bill 14, tabled this week by the minister responsible for language, Diane De Courcy, comes completely out of the blue. It’s been a long time since language has been a notable issue in the island’s suburbs or in the more distant places. You have to wonder what the problem is that De Courcy set out to fix.

To be sure, the presence of English has become a hot political issue, but that controversy has been confined do Montreal’s central core, especially the shopping areas. De Courcy’s measure gives the core a free pass — the bill can’t revoke Montreal’s bilingual status because the city doesn’t have one.

Removing the suburbs’ bilingual standing would also be curious because it would reduce the attractiveness of Montreal for knowledge workers from English-speaking countries. When they move here, these workers often choose to live in a bilingual suburb where — as is only normal — they feel more linguistically hospitable.

The Mercer 2012 Quality of Living Index of cities — an annual ranking to help multinational companies and organizations make decisions — came out the day before De Courcy tabled the bill. It rated Montreal well behind Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. If the minority government succeeds in making Bill 14 law, it’s not going to help the economy.

Peter Trent, the Westmount mayor and leader of the island’s suburban mayors, is a moderate on language issues. He calls the measure “completely unacceptable” to anglo communities. As well, he notes an additional curiosity about the bill: “It wouldn’t help the cause of preserving French one jot.”

Trent notes a final curiosity about the bill: Those suburbs whose majority of English mother-tongue residents are rapidly shrinking might have no interest in attracting those newcomers who would further dilute the English mother-tongue presence. The law might thus have the perverse effect of making francophones unwelcome.

This measure might make short-term political sense: Riling the anglos is often a surefire way to boost the PQ in anglophobes’ eyes.

But as a step to advance the interests of francophones, the bill shoots itself in the foot. In the end, it would harm everybody.

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A lesson in Quebec math: Bill 14 could put an end to many of Quebec’s bilingual cities

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Watch Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather commenting on the Quebec government’s threat to bilingual status for many Quebec cities:

A lesson in Quebec math: Bill 14 could put an end to many of Quebec’s bilingual cities | CTV Montreal News.

Tell your Member of the National Assembly you don’t support Bill 14

>> Contact D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman (who represents all parts of CSL) – email,

>> Contact the Interim Leader of the Quebec Liberal Party Jean-Marc Fournier – email

>> Contact the leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec emailTwitter

Bilingual status of cities, hospitals in potential danger: CSL mayor, councillor

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Bilingual status of cities, hospitals in potential danger: CSL mayor, councillor

By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban, May 18, 2011

Côte St. Luc mayor Anthony Housefather and Côte St. Luc Councillor Glenn Nashen are hoping residents of municipalities with bilingual status already or will properly identify themselves as mother tongue English on the 2011 Census questionnaire.

The issue of bilingual status is especially important now, says an article on Nashen’s blog, because of a PQ proposal to “change the rules related to bilingual status of municipalities.”

“The new tools the PQ wants to grant the Office Québécois de la Langue Française would see many communities potentially lose bilingual status,” the blog article adds. “Even a community with as many English-speaking residents as Côte St. Luc would be in jeopardy.

“The ramification of not indicating English as your mother tongue, if indeed it was one of them, is huge should the next PQ government decide to take a closer look.”

“As a mayor, this is dear to my heart,” Housefather told an audience at Westmount’s Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Sunday.

Bilingual status enables a municipality to post signs and communicate with users in English and French. The rule also applies to hospitals.

The problem, Housefather and Nashen said, is that while the Quebec government currently cannot revoke a municipality’s bilingual status, unless the municipality requests it, the PQ proposes to give the OQLF back this power.

Another problem is that in the 1990s, the PQ made attaining bilingual status more difficult, by demanding that more than 50 percent of residents be mother tongue English, rather than the original rule of language most often used.

Moreover, an even bigger problem, Housefather pointed out, is that some municipalities that have bilingual status already have less than 50 percent English mother tongue speakers, even though most residents might use English regularly. Town of Mount Royal is in this situation, as it is “way below the criteria for bilingual status,” the mayor said.

Thus, if the PQ comes to power and follows through on its promise, such bilingual status could be at risk.

And in terms of hospitals, “there are very few on the island of Montreal where 50 percent of the users are mother tongue English speaking,”

Housefather said. “You may have hospitals like the Jewish General where 75 percent of patients may prefer to speak English, but if you go to the mother tongue question, they’re probably well below 50 percent.

“If you go to municipalities across the island, you have that same issue. Many of the cities across the island have dropped below 50 percent mother tongue.

The mayor warned that the PQ will now look at the 2011 Census answer of mother tongue language, not what language is used at home.

“A lot of people, perhaps, didn’t understand that when they filled out the census – they may have written Yiddish when they could have reasonably said they learned Yiddish and English at the same time. You’re allowed to write both. If you forgot your first language or don’t speak it very much anymore, you’re allowed to write your other new language, which would be English.

“People don’t understand the importance of this question and it’s totally unfair, because [mother tongue] is a ridiculous rule and law. So it’s very important the whole English-speaking community in Montreal and anywhere else in Quebec – anybody who is legitimately, legally able to write English on that question, you’re the one who decides what your mother tongue is – understands the ramifications of writing English on that question.”

Montreal is bilingual, poll finds

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Montreal is bilingual, poll finds (Montreal Gazette)

While most Montrealers are brave enough to express that Montreal is, in fact, a bilingual city, the same cannot be said for the municipal or provincial leadership who have designated Montreal as a French-only city.

The first paragraph of the charter of the city is a vision statement for the city.  While drafted by provincial civil servants, and ratified by provincial politicians, it is the legal framework bestowed upon municipal politicians and city bureaucrats.  Yet the very essence of this vision, from Quebec City, is blurred here in Montreal.

Montreal is not Quebec City.  It is multicultural and multilinguistic and it is richer and healthier because of this.  For the most part Montrealers are friendly, tolerant and accommodating.  It’s high time our politicians face up to the reality of what most Montrealers already know.  We are not a French-only city.  We are a bilingual (if not multilingual) city with great respect for each others languages.

Councillor writes demerger brief

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CSL vows fight to keep bilingual status, Suburban

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