French-only warning signs dangerous: Letter to the editor

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Published in the Montreal Gazette, March 16, 2018
These French-only warning signs are actually dangerous for highway motorists not proficient in the French language. When approaching these massive electronic billboards and not immediately recognizing ominous words like “cahouteuse” or “aquaplanage” Without mastery of French you wouldn’t know whether to pull off the road or to call 911 for an urgent translation! I’ve made numerous demands for bilingual warnings and their inaction speaks volumes, in any language. They don’t care if you don’t understand.
Glenn J. Nashen
Cote Saint-Luc


In reference to:

Opinion: Meaning of Quebec highway signs should be clear to all

A year after National Assembly petition, provincial government still has not responded to safety concerns.

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.”

Adding English would make us all safer

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Free Press, Letters, Feb. 14, 2017

As we all know, all traffic signs on Quebec highways are solely in French. When driving, do you know what «Respectez les feux de voies», «Risque d’aquaplanage», «Dégel», «Ralentir», «Allumez vos phares», «Voie cahoteuse» and «Incident voie droite bloquée» mean?

Are you aware that according to the Charter of the French Language, 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? Seeing that the aforementioned phrases have to deal with one’s safety, why are they not in English as well, as the charter clearly provides?

It absolutely makes no sense whatsoever that the protection of the French language is more important than one’s safety. Shouldn’t the safety of everyone, whether French speaking or English speaking, be of prime importance? That is precisely why Ruth Kovac and I presented a petition to the provincial legislature through our legislator David Birnbaum.

Time is running out. The deadline of March 2 to sign the petition is fast approaching.

If you have already signed the petition, we thank you. If you have not signed, please do so. However, in all instances, please make sure that you share this with your family, friends, acquaintances, neighbours and your neighbours’ friends. Share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The petition can be found at:

Numbers do speak volumes and volumes can bring about change. The petition has nothing to do with language; it has everything to do with safety.

Ruth Kovac, Côte St. Luc

Harold Staviss, Hampstead

Opinion: Safety should trump language for Quebec highway signs | Montreal Gazette

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The following is an excellent opinion piece by my friends Ruth and Harold. The petition to allow for bilingual sfaety signs on Quebec highways is on the National Assembly website, which has over 5,000 signatures. The petition can be seen and signed at

Opinion: Safety should trump language for Quebec highway signs | Montreal Gazette

Transport Quebec restricting bilingual safety signs to border areas

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Suburban | July 1, 2015 | Click to enlarge

Suburban | June 24, 2015 | Click to enlarge

Any citizen of a free and democratic country should be outraged that its government would play with the safety of its population and its visitors for political purposes like this.

The fact that the Quebec Ministry of Transport has installed these electronic safety panels in the first place speaks to the need to inform motorists of serious issues ahead, on the road. The very nature of these messages is to alert, to warn, to safeguard motorists and passengers.

That Quebec would expressly restrict such messages to a single language speaks volumes of its intolerance of the English language and its contempt and disregard of English-speaking people, be they Quebecers or from elsewhere. This is totally unacceptable.

Join me in calling upon our government, through your MNA, to change this dangerous and discriminatory policy. I call upon my MNA, David Birnbaum, a principled man of goodwill, to speak with his colleagues in government, and to help them to see the serious error in this dangerous policy.

Birnbaum to look into SQ tweet language issue

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Suburban Newspaper | Oct. 1, 2014 | Click to enlarge

Suburban Newspaper | Oct. 1, 2014 | Click to enlarge

Thank you to our MNA David Birnbaum for taking an interest in this issue. David has taken up the cause of a few emergency services issues very quickly in his mandate out of concern for our residents. His keen interest and quick action is appreciated.

Contrary to what the SQ has stated, Bill 101 does not prohibit English when it comes to public safety as the Montreal Police Department has correctly determined, in large part, in its use of social media. Indeed, there is some question as to whether or not Bill 101 has any jurisdiction at all over the use of Internet communications. Nevertheless, the provincial police has a mandate and duty to communicate, and logically to be understood, by residents of Quebec and visitors to our province. Tweeting in French only is a misinterpretation of their requirements to communicate effectively.

I will follow this dossier closely and next will encourage David to investigate why Transport Quebec is using the same narrow rulebook to exclude any English public safety messages from its enormous digital billboards on autoroutes across Quebec.

A beautiful day to celebrate public safety at the CSL Spring Fair

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The parking lot at Trudeau Park was filled with emergency services and vehicles today but there was no need for panic at the sight of all that commotion.  The annual Public Safety Day (as part of the larger CSL Spring Fair) was exciting for visitors young and old.

CSL EMS trainee shows off the First Responder Unit

In addition to local Public Security, EMS and Citizens on Patrol, residents got to kick some tires of vehicles from the RCMP, Transport Quebec, Montreal Police, Fire, Hydro Quebec, Hatzola and even the Baie d’Urfé COP unit.

From left: George Durocher, Leader of the Baie-D'Urfé Citizens on Patrol, CSL Public Safety Councillor GLenn J. Nashen, Baie-D'urfé Public Safety Councillor Wayne Belvedere

The Montreal Fire Department set up a “smoke trailer”, a miniature house on wheels for kids to learn about fire safety.  They enter a “smokey” bedroom and have to crawl to safety, all to learn a valuable lesson about staying safe.

The Montreal Auxiliary Fire Brigade was on hand explaining how they have been supporting the Fire Services for more than 65 years.


The Canadian Armed Forces were on display with a military ambulance and auxiliary nurses.  The Trauma Team of the Montreal Children’s Hospital was in full force offering up tips regarding bike helmets, car seats and much more in the way of injury prevention.

Many thanks to all those professionals and volunteers who participated in a succesful event, especially CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, CSL Public Security Chief Michel Martel and Neighbourhood Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette, as well as EMS Coordinator Melaine Selby and Public Security Lieutenant Anthony Tsakon, the CSL Communications team (Darryl Levine and Regine Banon), the Recreation team and Public Works Department (Bebe Newman and company). Kudos to COP Supervisors Lewis Cohen, Susie Schwartz and Mitchell Herf along with Team Leaders Mayman, Berkowitz and Schok and all COP members.  This was a great team effort. 

From left: CSL Public Safety Councillor Glenn J. Nashen, CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, Neighbourhood Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette and CSL Public Security Chief Michel Martel


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