Quebec town in trouble over bilingual newsletter
Published Tuesday, April 17, 2012 7:51AM EDT
A monthly newsletter in the city of Chateauguay, Quebec, has caused a stir and it has nothing to do with its content. A resident complained there was too much English in the newsletter and now, Quebec's language watchdog has launched an investigation.
The Office Quebecois de La Langue Francaise is looking into why the newsletter, called the '"Chateauguay magazine," is written in both French and English. The office says that's a clear violation of the Charter of the French language, or Bill 101.
The office wants to ensure that the all the city's communication with citizens is done only in the official language of French.
Under Bill 101, cities that are considered bilingual can use English in their official correspondence. But Chateauguay, outside Montreal, is not considered bilingual, because only 26 per cent of the population speaks English.
And yet many Chateauguay residents – including a number of francophones – say they have no problem with the bilingual newsletter.
On Monday, dozens of residents presented city council with a petition signed by 2,000 residents, asking that the newsletter remain bilingual.
"We feel like if we don't do something about it, we are going to lose it," resident Stacey Tapp told CTV Montreal.
Tapp thinks the controversy is creating a division in the town. That's why she was among the group that started the petition pushing for unity among all residents.
"It's not pro-English, it's not anti-French; it's pro-bilingual," she says.
Beverly Lisiecki and other supporters showed up at city hall to urge the city to keep the newsletter the way it is.
"We're English and we want to continue having the bulletins published in English," Lisiecki said.
But it's not so simple. The OQLF's website reads that all municipalities must draw up and publish their public texts and documents in French, though they can also provide these communications in both French and English or another language.
Chateauguay's mayor, Nathalie Simon, says council is eager to come up with a solution.
"We have a committee trying to see what exactly is the complaint about and what are we not doing properly. And if we are not doing something properly, how can we correct it," she says.
The OQLF says city administrators should set an example for citizens.
"They have a role to play in attaining the objective of the French language, which is to make French the normal and everyday language of work, communication and business," says the OQLF's Martin Bergeron.
Among the dozens of protesters Monday was a small handful of Quebec nationalists who arrived to show support for the French language.
"We walk around in Montreal and we no longer recognize our city," Denis Ratte from a group called RRQ (Reseau du Resistance du Quebecois), told reporters. "French just isn't important anymore, anywhere."
For now, the city of Chateauguay says it's hoping to find a way to both respect the law and their diverse population.
With a report from CTV Montreal's Camille Ross