Quebec town pushes back against language police
A Montreal-area town is planning to remove all the words of welcome from its public signs, in an effort to remain welcoming to its dwindling Anglophone population.
The town of Saint-Lazare has been forced to remove all English words from its community signs, after the province's language watchdog cracked down on the bilingual community in 2012. The town’s Anglophone population dropped to about 36 per cent in 2012, and a Quebec law that requires majority Francophone towns display signs written in French only.
“Provincial language laws are unfair. That’s a fact,” the town’s mayor, Robert Grimaudo, told CTV Montreal.
That’s why Grimaudo is backing a plan to overhaul Saint-Lazare signs posted on the way into town, and on many community-owned buildings throughout the municipality. The signs will display only the town’s name, with no French or English messages written on them.
“At a municipal level we have to live with the laws, and we act accordingly, and this is the best we can do,” Grimaudo said.
For instance, roadside signs on the way into Saint-Lazare currently have French-only messages of welcome, with their English translations blacked out. But the new signs will be more visual, with no such messages of welcome written on them.
“It will reflect what Saint-Lazare is: a peaceful and united community that tries as much as possible to work well together, despite certain pressures that are put on us by provincial laws,” Grimaudo said.
Most of Saint-Lazare’s residents are in favour of the move toward a wordless sign. However, some pro-Anglophone activists want to see English-speakers push back against the Quebec law. “The citizens of Saint-Lazare should stand up and say no,” Antoinette Mercurio, of the Unity Group, told CTV Montreal. “There’s no way that Saint-Lazare should have fallen… fallen through the cracks.”
Saint-Lazare’s councillors will vote on a new design for their sign in the spring.