Council pushes for English signage on Quebec roads

Leave a comment

Free Press | Jan. 17, 2017 | Click to enlarge

Nashen touts Hydro Quebec’s new offering of English tweets

Leave a comment

Free Press | Sept. 27, 2016 | Click to enlarge

Invitation to participate in a questionnaire on language and identity in Quebec

Leave a comment

McGill University’s Dr. Ruth Kircher is conducting a questionnaire-based study to investigate the interrelation between language and identity in Quebec, and is looking for participants. The study is aimed at people 18 years of age and older, of all mother tongues, and in all regions of the province. It is not important whether participants were born in Quebec or not, as long as they are living in the province at the moment. Participation is anonymous and participants can choose whether they would like to complete the questionnaire in English or in French.

Click here to access the questionnaire

Letters: How about protecting English in Quebec, as well?


Letters, Montreal Gazette, April 22, 2014

Re: “Large retailers should add French to signage” (Editorial, April 19)

Are you kidding? Just when the Quebec Superior Court says leave things as they are, The Gazette seems to want to take a big step backward and instigate the language issues once again.

Who complained? The newly formed government has more important things to do now than revisit the signage issues. The OQLF’s time should be up! The millions saved could be spent so much better on health, education, infrastructure, etc.

Businesses need to flourish, and in the language of the consumer. The fact is, English has been so diminished that many retailers have zero English signage outside or inside their stores, fail to print circulars or sales receipts bilingually. Shame on all those corporations for disrespecting my bilingual dollar and for disrespecting me as a customer.

I must add, Toys R Us saw fit to give back respect to its customers by putting back English signage as permitted under the provisions of the Charter of the French Language. The French language is protected in Quebec; isn’t it about time that the English language be protected as well?

I am quite surprised and disappointed that The Gazette, Montreal’s only English-language daily newspaper, is not more vigorous in supporting the anglophone community!

Ruth Kovac


City of Côte-Saint-Luc

Letter: The Gazette should be advocating the dissolution of the OQLF


Re: “Large retailers should add French to signage” (Editorial, April 19)

Shame on The Gazette, Montreal’s only English-language daily newspaper, for once again letting us, the anglophone community down and for not showing us the respect we truly deserve. How disrespectful can you be by mentioning that large retailers should add French to signage? Instead of applauding the Superior Court judgment rendered by the Honourable Mr. Justice Michel Yergeau for applying the provisions of the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) and congratulating such retail chains as Best Buy, Costco Wholesale, Old Navy and others who stood up for what is right and not caving in to the useless, harassing and bullying tactics of the Office québécois de la langue française, you went out of your way to agree with what the OQLF was attempting to achieve. I guess I should not be surprised if your next moves were to encourage the OQLF to seek appeal of the Superior Court judgment and to lobby the Liberal government to amend the provisions of Bill 101.

As Montreal’s only English-language daily newspaper, it would have been a step in the right direction to not only come out and encourage all retailers in Quebec, especially those in the Montreal, Laval and South Shore areas where there are a good number of anglophones, to post signs in both French and English as allowed by Bill 101, but also to encourage the Quebec Liberal government to dissolve the OQLF and use the millions of dollars saved on such useful projects as health care, infrastructure and the economy. Remember, English has not been banned under Bill 101 and English is not a disease, it happens to be one of the two official languages of Canada.

Harold Staviss

Representative of the Office Québecois de la Langue Anglaise (OQLA)


New Toys R Us to add English to signs

1 Comment

The Suburban, Nov. 20, 2013, Joel Goldenberg

Toys R Us is adding English content to its store signage at its Jean Talon and Décarie store and other Montreal-area stores in Vaudreuil and Pointe Claire, after receiving several complaints from customers.

One of those complaints was from this reporter, who approached an employee with the signage issue — I was told the decision was made by head office. And another complainant, among many, was Côte St. Luc Councillor Ruth Kovac, who called the Toronto head office.

The new store is located in close proximity to Côte St. Luc and Hampstead, both of which have majority anglophone populations. Complaints were also received about the lack of product descriptions in English, the lack of English on flyers and the lack of English versions of talking toys.

When I first entered the store, the only English in evidence was a sign saying the store was open Remembrance Day; and the English-only display leading into the video game section. According to Quebec’s language law, English is allowed on signs as long as French is predominant. There are many bilingual signs designating sections (houseware, electronics) at the neighbouring Wal-Mart store.

On Thursday, The Suburban learned from the Toronto head office that English content would be added to signs. That afternoon, Liz Macdonald, vice president of marketing and store planning at Toys R Us, confirmed this on Aaron Rand’s CJAD show.

Macdonald said on the show that the store was aware of the French predominance provision in the language law.

“In the past, what would happen is we would say to our associates, ‘here’s some English signs, please put them up throughout the store,’ but then you wouldn’t necessarily go and count every French sign and make sure there were two French signs to every English sign,” she explained. “They would be not necessarily in compliance with the law. We got caught a couple of times and we were fined for having too much English and not having the right proportion.

“So after a couple of fines and realizing, how realistic is it to ask an associate to go around and count — ‘we have 10 price match signs, now are eight of them in French and two in English’ — we overreacted a little bit, to be honest, and said ‘we’re just going to go French.’ We get inspected and looked at quite regularly.”

Macdonald said Thursday that English signs arrived at the Décarie, Pointe Claire and Vaudreuil stores that same day.

“Our policy signs are going up in English and French, our ‘hot toys’ items and signs are also going up in English, and you’ll see that throughout the store,” she added. “Some of the navigational [section] signage will have to be specifically designed to meet the requirements, and that will come in the next month or so.”

Macdonald also said an English talking toy can’t be sold in Quebec unless a French version is available, unless there’s an education exemption.

Kovac was elated at the signage news. “Toys R Us contacted me from their corporate head office,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Suburban. “They acknowledged the issues I raised and will be placing English signs not only at the new Décarie store but in others as well. They will also add English flyers to their ad campaigns. I was told I made quite a case. I am delighted to have made a difference.”


In my opinion: Bravo to Ruth Kovac and all those who complained to Toys R Us about the lack of English signs here and in other stores and businesses.

I have also received many complaints about the absence of English signs at the new McDonald’s restaurant on Cote Saint-Luc Rd. and our Mayor Anthony Housefather has personally been in contact with franchiser Pierre Brunet who ensures us that English signs are on order.

I have communicated with Target Canada about its lack of English signs in its new stores and it seems that this is beginning to be rectified as well.

I have always strived for equal rights for the English language in Quebec. As former Executive Director of Alliance Quebec I maintain that Quebecers must continue to advocate for language rights, from government and from retail and commercial enterprise. Mayor Housefather, a former AQ president, shares the same passion to promote language rights.

Store owners must be reminded that consumers will choose where to spend their dollars.  You can take your money where you can see your language displayed, as permitted under the horrid Quebec language laws.  You should be able to feel respected and appreciated when you shop and spend your hard earned cash.

Please continue to call and complain and let your local newspaper know about your findings as well.


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.

Bilingual McDonald’s coming to CSL Shopping Centre


McDonald's concept coming to the CSL Shopping Centre

McDonald’s concept coming to the CSL Shopping Centre

Cote Saint-Luc is about to get its first drive-through restaurant.  McDonald’s will be building a restaurant on Cote Saint-Luc Road at the Shopping Centre. Council gave final approval at its public meeting last night.

I was pleased to have pointed out that its signage plans were only in French and that the city ought to recommend that the fast food giant consider adding English wording. Mayor Housefather immediately directed that city staff encourage the company to reconsider their signage plan. The mayor and I, former president and executive director, respectively, of Quebec’s English language rights lobby, are very sensitive about promoting bilingualism, particularly with commercial signs.

One of many bilingual signs coming to McDonald's Cote Saint-Luc

One of many bilingual signs coming to McDonald’s Cote Saint-Luc

To their credit, and to our great pleasure, McDonald’s agreed to avail themselves to the provision in Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, which allows for languages other than French on commercial signs provided that French predominates.

“Cote Saint-Luc is likely the only municipality in Quebec to make such recommendations.  Given the government’s efforts through Bill 14 to wipe out English I am proud that Cote Saint-Luc has taken such action to encourage businesses to comply with the law in displaying English,” Housefather said.

In related news, by chance last week I met Target Canada’s new director of  government affairs.  I mentioned that I noticed that recruitment signs were only in French and said I hoped that new Target stores would carry English on their signage in neighbourhoods with English-speaking communities, such as the West Island, Lasalle and elsewhere.  The Target executive assured me that English would appear on their signs in the appropriate neighbourhoods.


Montreal Transit Corp. (STM) should stay out of politics, provide better service in both languages

1 Comment

La Presse reports that by asking the STM to offer bilingual services, the Société says Minister Jean-François Lisée is going against Bill 14. The STM is reportedly analysing the bilingualism needs of its employees and plans to submit a report to the OQLF by next spring. Spokesperson Odile Paradis says universal bilingualism will not be enforced.
Recall that two weeks ago PQ Minister Lisée appeared on CJAD’s Tommy Schnurmacher Show and indicated that the STM should be in a position to offer services in English.  “Are you listening STM?” the minister quipped on air.
The STM is a service of the Montreal Agglomeration and its staff have no business getting involved in political decisions.  If the minister indicates that the transit service should be offering services in English what business do the STM have in arguing against this?  Ridiculous.
The politicians at the Agglomeration Council, headed by Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum must give the STM their marching orders. Stay out of politics and provide the best service possible in the customer’s official language.

National Post editorial board: English is a right, not a privilege

1 Comment


National Post Editorial, Jan. 4, 2013



Language tensions are to Montreal what black flies are to the Laurentian mountains that lie to the city’s north: They’re easy to ignore individually, but collectively at peak season they can lead to near-intolerable frustration. Sometimes, they make residents feel they are paying too high a price for the pleasure of experiencing Quebec’s charms.


During the last provincial election, language tensions were ratcheted up to one of those near-intolerable peaks as a tried and true means of garnering votes by the Parti Québécois. PQ leader Pauline Marois and her minions spread false, fear-mongering tales of the French language’s demise in Montreal, and in subtle but effective ways, encouraged francophones to feel offended even by the sound of the English language.


On three separate occasions within weeks, an English-speaker allegedly was physically assaulted by a francophone who had simply overheard — not even been spoken to personally — other people speaking to each other in English, and who cited the sound of English as the reason for their animus.


Shortly after the election, a transport employee put up a sign on his subway collection booth that “here things are done in French” and refused to speak English to a woman making inquiries. A paramedic refused to speak English in an emergency situation involving a child in an anglo area. In October, a subway ticket taker allegedly grabbed a woman customer who spoke English to him in a headlock and punched her, allegedly telling the customer to “go back to your country” and “in Quebec, we can only speak French.”


This was one “black fly” too many, and brought blowback that demanded investigation. Montreal’s Société de transport de Montréal (STM) deplored the violence, but insisted Bill 101, Quebec’s language law, forbade it from legally compelling bus and subway workers to speak English.


In December, Montreal’s Gazette filed an access-to-information request with the STM, seeking a legal opinion on how Bill 101’s employee-language requirements apply to the agency. On Dec 21, the STM responded: “No such legal opinion exists.” But the Gazette investigation found otherwise in the language of Article 46 of Bill 101: “An employer is prohibited from making the obtaining of an employment or office dependent upon the knowledge or a specific level of knowledge of a language other than the official language, unless the nature of the duties requires such knowledge” (our emphasis).


For example, the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT), which runs Montreal commuter trains, requires front-line agents to be able to communicate in English. That is sensible, because the commuter trains serve areas of Montreal that are predominantly anglophone. It makes even more sense for buses and subway stations, because they not only serve anglophone residential areas, they also serve untold numbers of tourists and other unilingual visitors from the United States and the rest of Canada.


Montreal anglos wrongly have come to believe that the use of English by public service workers is a kindness rather than an obligation. Indeed, many of them believe that French is the only official language in Quebec. But English is in fact an official language in Quebec, by virtue of Section 133 of the BNA Act and the federal Official Languages Act. That rankles Quebec nationalists, but there is nothing they can do about it.


When the PQ came to power, they declared French the only official language of the National Assembly and the courts — even though everyone knew this was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court duly struck that down in the 1979 case of Attorney General vs. Blaikie.


Not all francophones in the Quebec government’s employ must be competent in English — just as not every Ontario government worker must know French. Obviously the working language of Quebec is French, just as English is the working language of most other provinces. But in those contexts where clear communication is required for citizens to make use of critical services, then both official languages should be admissible as a matter of course.


National Post

Party leaders not interested in issues of English-speaking community

Leave a comment

Party leaders not interested in issues of English-speaking community

Montreal – August 29, 2012 – Heading into the final days of the election, the Quebec Community Groups Network is concerned about the lack of interest shown by party leaders and candidates on issues of importance to English-speaking Quebecers. And despite courting our vote, the parties of have little or nothing to offer our community, said QCGN President Dan Lamoureux.

“When the word English comes up, leaders are mainly talking about cracking down on the use of English on signs and in the workplace,” protested Lamoureux.” No one distinguishes between the fear and loathing of the English language and the threat it represents to the French language and culture and the English-speaking minority community which is more and more bilingual and continues to contribute to Quebec society as it has done for generations and generations since this province was founded.”


The QCGN recently wrote the leaders of the Coalition Avenir Québec, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, Option Nationale, the Parti Québécois, and Québec Solidaire asking them for their party’s positions on a number of issues of interest to the English speaking community. To read the letter CLICK HERE .

“We were dismayed to receive only one reply from the three main parties with the potential to form the next government of Quebec,” said Lamoureux.

While the Liberals did not answer our questions, incumbent Premier Jean Charest’s party promised to introduce a tax credit that would allow English-speaking adults with basic French language skills to take intermediate and advanced level French courses to strengthen their competitiveness on the job market. Even the Quebec Citizens’ Union, whose interim leader Alexis St-Gelais admitted his party would not form the next government, took the time to answer our questions and made some commitments to our community. But none of the other parties bothered to take the time to answer.

“How should we interpret the silence of Pauline Marois and François Legault, who are unabashedly courting the Anglophone vote despite the fact that their platforms promise such things as abolishing our school boards or holding referendums which always create a backlash against our community?” asked Lamoureux.

Lamoureux pointed out that English-speaking Quebecers represent almost 783,500 (13.5 per cent) of voters in Quebec. “We represent a clear majority in a handful of Montreal districts, but in many ridings dispersed throughout the province – in the Eastern Townships, on the Gaspé Peninsula, and in the Outaouais region – English-speaking Quebecers hold a significant enough number of votes to make a difference in a race where votes are divided among multiple parties. Leaders and candidates who take English voters for granted do so at their own peril.”

During the last provincial election voter turnout dropped to an historic low, Lamoureux notes, adding this phenomenon was particularly evident in majority English ridings. “We believe it is important for members of our community to be involved and to vote,” urged Lamoureux. “We need our voice to be heard loud and clear by all candidates, all leaders and all parties.”

The Quebec Community Groups Network ( is a not-for-profit organization bringing together 41 English-language community organizations across Quebec. Its mission is to identify, explore and address strategic issues affecting the development and vitality of English-speaking Quebec and to encourage dialogue and collaboration among its member organizations, individuals, community groups, institutions and leaders.

Quebec should be the envy of the world: Letter to the editor, Montreal Gazette

1 Comment

Robert Libman strikes a chord with many Quebecers who have endured decades of mean-spirited Anglo-bashing (Anglophones have absolutely nothing to apologize for, Montreal Gazette, Apr. 18, 2012). English-speaking Quebecers are living under very different circumstances today than when the restrictive and loathsome legislation was brought in some 30 years ago.

The facts speak for themselves: English schools continue to close, businesses are pressured into compliance by the dreaded OQLF tongue-troopers and anonymous snitches, bilingual institutions and municipalities are under constant threat by shifting demographics and English-language services are increasingly rare in outlying regions, for example. The economic cost on the community and the province has been severe and the personal toll on thousands of families has been painful.

How unproductive and sad that our political atmosphere remains stuck in an artificial and cruel linguistic pressure cooker.

Just think how much better off we would all be if we channeled our energy into embracing our rich and vibrant cultures, celebrating our ability to speak many languages, and appreciating how fortunate we are to live in an extraordinarily beautiful province. We should be the envy of the world.

Glenn J. Nashen
City Councillor, Cote Saint-Luc
Former Executive Director, Alliance Quebec

Percentage English mother tongue on census crucial to cities


The census has always provided a portrait of our people and the places in which we live. The 2011 Census, which you have received, will continue this tradition.

Census information is important for your community and is vital for planning services such as schools, daycare, police services and fire protection.

All residents of Canada are legally required to complete the census questionnaire.

Statistics Canada is bound by law to protect the confidentiality of the information respondents provide in the census. Only Statistics Canada employees have access to census questionnaires.

However, as you may be aware, the Parti Québécois (PQ) proposes to change the rules related to bilingual status of municipalities. This would allow the Office Québécois de la Langue Francaise to revoke a city’s bilingual status.

Currently the law does not permit the Government of Quebec to revoke a municipality’s bilingual status unless requested by the municipality itself. 

The law currently states that bilingual status is only granted to those cities which have more than 50% of their residents that declare English as their mother tongue. This is a very unfair criteria. One should be using the language people speak at home, or the official language that people most often use, in order to determine bilingual status.

But the Quebec government has made this very restrictive and the new tools the PQ wants to grant the OQLF would see many communities potentially lose bilingual status. Even a community with as many English-speaking residents as Cote Saint-Luc (CSL) would be in jeopardy.

While about 80% of CSL residents use English as their primary official language, according to Statistics Canada correspondence received by the city last year, and well over 70% use English at home, only about half of CSLers identified English as their mother tongue in the 2006 census. This is partially caused by some people who have two mother tongues (Yiddish and English, for example) believing that they should only fill in one language (Yiddish, for example) since they have identified English as their language of use at home.

It is perfectly legitimate to have more than one mother tongue response if you learned two languages simultaneously.  You are allowed to mark English and add another language (ie. Yiddish) as the other mother tongue if you learned both together as a young child.

We must ensure that as many people as possible in fill out the census and identify English (honestly, of course) as their mother tongue language.  Note that if you no longer speak your mother tongue you can say English here instead if it is your language first learned and still understood.

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.  Please be very careful when answering the questions on language to indicate your English language preference and history. 


Read more from the Globe and Mail: 

“Party policy would also allow civil servants to revoke the now-permanent officially bilingual status of hospitals and municipalities if English is no longer the majority language in their area.”