Free French for all Quebecers, a positive gesture

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Greg Kelley, the MNA for Jacques-Cartier, says he thinks he has found a way to unite Quebecers of all stripes around a common cause, which is improving the French of people from all backgrounds, the Gazette reports.

Kelley wants the Quebec government to open up the Charter of the French Language to make free instruction in French a right for anyone who resides in Quebec.

This is a positive and enabling idea which is long overdue. For far too long the emphasis has been on punitive measures by policy-makers and language cops rather than empowering methods of teaching those who could benefit from additional help and contribute to the social and economic fabric of society.

After 40 years of the stick it’s time for the carrot!

Teach everyone who’s willing to learn to speak French. Presumably this will entice English-speakers and those who have arrived from countries where neither English nor French is an official language.

Let’s give the necessary tools for Quebecers to speak to one another, to learn from each other and to respect each other.

We are a richer society by speaking multiple languages. This enriching experience may even convince French-speaking Quebecers to call upon the government to offer free English courses. Et pourquoi pas?

Nashen touts Hydro Quebec’s new offering of English tweets

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

Quebec not budging on English for public safety signs

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By Joel Goldenberg

The Suburban, November 5th, 2014

This is the latest in a series of articles looking at stores and companies and their language policies in areas with majority and significant anglophone populations, as documented by Hampstead’s Harold Staviss and Côte St. Luc’s Ruth Kovac.

Quebec will not budge on the inclusion of English on road signs dealing with public safety, despite the allowance of its inclusion according to the province’s language laws, an e-mail from Quebec’s transport department indicates.

Staviss recently wrote to the complaints department of Transport Quebec about the lack of English on safety signs, pointing out the importance of those signs for all Quebecers.

Staviss also cited Article 22 in the Charter of the French Language, which states that “the civil administration shall use only French in signs and posters, except where reasons of health or public safety require the use of another language as well.”

“I’m wondering why Transport Quebec isn’t taking this rule into account so that all public safety displays are in French and English,” Staviss wrote.

Days later, Staviss received a reply from Catherine Boutin of the transport ministry, which further cited article 22 as stating that “in the case of traffic signs, the French inscription may be complemented or replaced by symbols or pictographs, and another language may be used where no symbol or pictograph exists that satisfies the requirements of health or public safety.”

“As we are aware of the linguistic diversity of those who use our roads, the department primarily uses symbols and pictograms, according to Quebec standards but also taking into account international norms,” Boutin wrote. “The road signs are thus understandable to everyone.

“The department also uses messages on electronic panels to disseminate real-time messages to help drivers decide on their routes and for general road safety recommendations,” her e-mail added. “These messages do not apply to public health or safety and are therefore only in French.”

Boutin also wrote that the ministry uses fixed signs, not the electronic type, during road safety awareness campaigns.

“Because of the nature of the messages conveyed, French signage is recommended. The ministry also broadcasts English messages in the media, if the language of the broadcaster is not French, ensuring that all road users are adequately informed.”

Kovac recommended that a copy of the transport ministry response be sent to the ministers of transport and public safety.
Staviss said a comment from Côte St. Luc Councillor Glenn Nashen, who has also been calling for English on highway safety signs, reflects his own view as well.

Nashen said in an e–mail to Staviss that he is “completely” dissatisfied with the answer from the ministry.

“Looking just at the electronic signage they’ve installed around the province, they say that this information is not linked to public safety or health and therefore is in French only,” Nashen wrote. “Nonsense. The best example is that signs say ‘cahouteuse’ (rough road) from time to time as a warning or message indicating danger. I would challenge the ministry to poll how many English-speakers would know what this word even means. It is clearly a message of public safety.

“Also, there are warnings concerning periods of ‘degel” or thaw, messages for staying alert and awake, for DUI and the like. These are all public safety messages and it is completely unacceptable for the ministry not to present these messages in English as well as French. Additionally, these panels flash information about accidents up ahead, about important alerts for construction on roads and bridges. It is illogical and nonsensical not to post these messages in both languages.”

Nashen recommended that Staviss send a copy of the ministry’s e-mail response to D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum.

•••

Staviss and Kovac’s e-mail address, bonjourhi2u@gmail.com — is “for anyone who is interested in getting involved to encourage merchants, retailers and the like to post English signage or more English signage.”

 

Montreal fire department website now has English content

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By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban, October 29th, 2014

The Montreal fire department website (ville.montreal.qc.ca/sim/en) now has a significant amount of English content, The Suburban has discovered.

Earlier this year, Côte St. Luc Councillor Glenn Nashen complained that the new website lacked English.

“This is completely unacceptable and I’d even say goes contrary to their mission of providing public safety, thereby placing the residents of the Montreal agglomeration at risk,” Nashen said at the time.
Suzie Simard, spokesperson with the Montreal fire department, told us at the time that the English content was being worked on and would soon be on the site.

A few weeks ago, we saw a limited amount of English content on the site, but now there is much more content, in relation to prevention tips, what to do after a fire, awareness campaigns, a children’s section, information on first responders, specialized teams, maps of fire stations, information on vehicles and equipment, how to obtain a fire report, tours and related bylaws.
Nashen was pleased.

“This is a very good start at communicating with the English-speaking community, since the new department was created in 2002,” he wrote us in an e-mail. “There is still much work to be done in ensuring that other French-only informational, educational and promotional material and content gets translated as well. All forms, hand-outs and videos should be accessible by all Montreal agglomeration residents in English alongside French.”

And Nashen added that if the an impact is to be made in fire safety and prevention in cultural and linguistic communities, “this agglo department, as well as the police and emergency measures divisions, will have to work hard to communicate in several languages as is the norm in other major North American centres.

“The Montreal Agglo Fire Department has finally started to do what is crucial in their mission to prevent fires and safeguard residents. It must show the same efforts in social media and all other publicity to be sure their important messages are being understood and followed.”

 

As an Anglo-Quebecois, are you showing enough goodwill?

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Former Pequiste Pierre Curzi, who is now with the separatist party Option Nationale, explained his views on language when he was a guest on the Tommy Schnurmacher Show on CJAD 800 Talk Radio along with Stéphane Dion, who once described Bill 101 as a great Canadian law.

Listen to the episode here:

As an Anglo-Quebecois, are you showing enough goodwill?.

Opinion: Changes proposed by Bill 14 risk serious rights violations

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By Pearl Eliadis, Special to The Gazette April 18, 2013

MONTREAL – Last Friday, the Quebec Bar Association testified at legislative hearings in Quebec City on Bill 14, which proposes to amend several laws, including the French Language Charter, and impose new restrictions on (mainly) anglophone rights.

When I first wrote about Bill 14 last fall (Opinion, Dec. 11, “Bill 14 chips away at English minority rights”), I highlighted the bill’s proposed change in definition of “ethnic minorities” to the nebulous “cultural communities.” Other writers have discussed this as well. The proposed new term, in my view, is worrisome because it serves as prologue to a litany of substantive rights violations in the bill.

The Bar found more than a dozen of these, in a number of areas. Among them:

Jobs: Let’s say your employer hired you because she needs well-educated employees who speak two or more languages. After all, you work in the Montreal area, so you probably serve clients of different linguistic backgrounds. Under Bill 14, your employer would be obliged to “subsequently review such needs periodically” to justify not only your job, but also the job of every other employee whose skills in a language other than French were seen as an asset when they were hired. It does not matter how big or small the company is. If requiring a language other than French cannot be justified to the satisfaction of the language bureaucrats, your job or your promotion would be jeopardized. This applies even if you are fluent in French.

Public services: Bill 14 proposes to require communication with the provincial government in French, in order to obtain a licence, authorization, assistance, indemnity or any other benefit. Applications, then, would have to be made in French. All supporting documents would have to be in French, too. Otherwise, the government would insist on translating it, at your expense. This provision would create a disadvantage mainly for English speakers. If Bill 14 is passed, forget about English versions of driver’s licence forms, income-tax forms and other tax-related information, not to mention English versions of government websites, which are already inadequate. Then there is Bill 14’s proposed new passive right for government officials to be addressed solely in French. The corollary is that public servants would be entitled to refuse to even acknowledge anything said to them in English.

Health and social services: Under Bill 14, workers in health and social services would be able to demand full translation of files into French. Translation costs would be borne by the English-language health-care system. But what if there were a real emergency, and your file had to be transferred from the English-speaking system to a specialist in the French-speaking system? The English version of Bill 14 says that the person authorized to receive your documents may require “a quick rundown of their content” in French — and this, in addition to the full translation of the file. The French version of the bill can be interpreted as saying only a “quick rundown” would be required. The translation contradictions are not helpful. To be sure, there are perfectly valid reasons for wanting unilingual workers to understand what they are reading. However, Bill 14’s proposals would impose financial burdens on an already-beleaguered health system. (I am betting there was no consultation with the English system on this point).

Your child’s schooling: Let’s say you move. Or you want to transfer your child to another English school, for whatever reason. Education officials under Bill 14 would, in these cases, be entitled to disregard your child’s years of schooling to date if this schooling in English were obtained through “trickery,” deception or a “temporary artificial situation.” These terms are all undefined, and interpretation would be left to the discretion of bureaucrats.

These are but a few examples of what awaits us if Bill 14 is passed. The bill promises years of litigation and legal instability.

Who will pay? For starters, the taxpayer.

The Quebec Bar Association’s brief, which highlights the legally problematic aspects of Bill 14, should be reassuring to anyone who believes that the rule of law should prevail regardless of one’s mother tongue or home language.

Protecting French is a legitimate political objective. But Bill 14 goes too far, and risks becoming a launch pad for multiple legal challenges that will further damage Quebec’s reputation.

Pearl Eliadis is a Montreal human-rights lawyer. She was part of the legal advisory team for the African Canadian Legal Clinic of Toronto, an intervenor in the Whatcott case. She teaches civil liberties at McGill University.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

CSL takes leadership role opposing Bill 14 language law

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With Côte Saint-Luc certainly taking the lead, municipalities with bilingual status are adopting resolutions affirming their desire to retain their bilingual status and opposing Bill 14, which would give the Quebec government the power to unilaterally remove this status against the will of the municipality or borough concerned.

“If the bill becomes law, more than half of the 84 municipalities and boroughs that have bilingual status might lose it,” said Mayor Anthony Housefather of Côte Saint-Luc. “It is unconscionable that the Parti Québécois government amended the legislation in 2000 to define who is an English-speaker in the narrowest possible way and now wants to use those misleading numbers to unilaterally remove bilingual status.”

Since 1977, it have been illegal for municipalities to, among other things, send a bilingual tax bill, erect bilingual signage, or send a bilingual memo to city workers. However, an exception was made under Section 29.1 of the Charter of the French Language, commonly referred to as bilingual status, for municipalities where a majority of residents spoke a language other than French. In 2000, another Parti Québécois government adopted Bill 171, which drastically changed the criteria to obtain bilingual status 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.

This revised criteria was imposed without consulting municipalities and boroughs, and adopted the narrowest and most inaccurate definition of the English-speaking communities.

Bill 14, tabled by the new Parti Québécois minority government, would allow for the potential removal of bilingual status from municipalities or boroughs by decree–and against the will of the municipality or borough concerned, its duly elected council and its residents—if less than 50 percent of residents are mother tongue English-speaking.

Of the 1,476 cities and towns and boroughs in Quebec, only 84—or 6 percent—have bilingual status.

I am urging readers to please go to www.bilingualstatus.com and from there write a letter to your Member of the National Assembly, requesting that they vote against this law.

An interview with Mayor Housefather on Bill 14 on CBC Radio One is available on Mike Cohen’s blog.

 

Global News:  Côte St-Luc Mayor launches website to rally Quebecers against Bill 14

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