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Small Town Mayor Stands Up To Quebec Language Police


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Small-town mayor stands up to Quebec language police

09/03/2012 8:30:00 AMby Nevil Hunt

The mayor and council in the town of Huntingdon, Que., say they will ignore a provincial demand to stop sending out correspondence that includes English.

Quebec's language police are taking aim at the town of Huntingdon, Que.

Acting on a complaint from a citizen, the Office Quebecoise de la langue Francaise has warned the town council that it can no longer send out paperwork to residents that contains any English.

Under Quebec's laws, a municipality must be more than 50 per cent anglophone in order to offer any services in English. Huntingdon, a town of about 2,600 people, is only 40 per cent anglophone.

The town's mayor, Stephane Gendron, and his council voted unanimously for a resolution calling the Quebec language law "racist and discriminatory."

The town faces fines if it continues to send out materials that include the English language.

While promoting French is a reasonable goal, penalizing people for not understanding it makes no sense. It's clearly important that residents understand their tax bill, their water bill or a new bylaw coming into effect.

Canadians have accepted some limits to their communications if the end result is worthwhile. A generation ago, the federal government adopted Canadian content rules on radio.

The goal was to ensure that Canadian musicians and the music industry as a whole could survive while we sit next to the massive entertainment industry of the United States. The theory was that a guaranteed amount of airplay would allow Canadian music to compete.

There were critics when the CanCon rules were first enacted and even today some commentators have the gall to suggest the requirements were a failure. But they worked: our music industry is healthy and Canadians now spend lots of time listening to homegrown talent.

In Quebec, the laws are intended to put French first, which will hopefully ensure the language continues to be used. Being first is a reasonable goal, hence the requirement that French be the dominant language on commercial signs.

But being first doesn't mean other languages must disappear altogether. No one is going to decide to stop using French because their tax bill comes in both English and French.

The Huntingdon case puts Quebec Premier Jean Charest in a very delicate spot. It's truly a no-win situation for him.

Charest has so far said the law must be followed, which will cost him support in the English parts of the province.

He told reporters that the language laws are the "consensus of Quebec society." That may be true when the whole province is considered, but it is not the consensus of the Huntingdon society. The town sits near the New York border and needs jobs. Gendron has been trying to draw outside investment.

The "French first and French only" policy could damage the town. To deny Huntingdon the ability to improve its economy is in no one's interest, no matter what language they speak.

Should the town council in Huntingdon accept the Quebec law? Is there some way the town could work around the language law's requirements?

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Bilingual country, not a bilingual province. The only province that MUST offer its provincial services in both languages is New Brunswick, and people aren't completely happy about that either.

I don't get anything from my city or from the BC government that's in French. And I don't think the OP knows what exactly he's complaining about.

It's "ridiculous", eh? Historically, French Canadians in Lower Canada were "penalized" because they couldn't understand English. How's that for ridiculous?

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Really?? You're using the "they did it then so we can do it now" argument? Laughable.

How about we're still categorizing and segregating each other as anything other than fellow Canadians in 2012.......how's that for ridiculous?

When it comes to changes in by-laws, taxes, etc. there should be no, I repeat, NO LAW that prevents all Canadians from obtaining that information.

The French first French only law has honest intentions but ends up doing far more damage than good. It needs to be seriously looked at and redone.

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I love Quebec and French Canadian culture but the language police are way over the top. I actually thought they had calmed down because they chased a lot of companies out of Quebec when I lived there and it was starting to hurt the economy on a large scale.

They got "The Bay" to change their name to "La Baie", "Eaton's" was changed to "Chez Eaton", etc. They had a big battle going on in largely Anglophone Hudson when I left but I can't remember how it turned out.

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Bilingual country, not a bilingual province. The only province that MUST offer its provincial services in both languages is New Brunswick, and people aren't completely happy about that either.

I don't get anything from my city or from the BC government that's in French. And I don't think the OP knows what exactly he's complaining about.

It's "ridiculous", eh? Historically, French Canadians in Lower Canada were "penalized" because they couldn't understand English. How's that for ridiculous?

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I was leaving Montreal a couple years ago and taking a taxi to the airport when the cab driver playfully lamented about how many Asian people there are in Vancouver and how nobody over on that side of country could speak French. More Chinese than French he said. He was a Middle Eastern guy too, FYI. These language sentiments run deep over there and apparently not just in Francophones. Even their license plates say "je me souviens" meaning something along the lines of 'I remember'--a reference to either Trudeau's Charter snub in '65... (I think) or just referencing how they're a 'conquered' people.

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Four mini-paragraphs, right?. I'll do my best to respond! And yes, I admit that I'm playing devil's advocate here, but it's a forum, and that's what forums are for! I think. :)

1. It's kinda like that. There's been about 200 years of Anglo-minority discrimination against Francophone Quebec, all in the name of trying to assimilate them into British culture. I guess the result is that you have a nation that simply cannot trust an English Canadian government, nor do they trust any policy that might potentially promote the English language in Quebec.

This is their attempt at preserving their culture, and I think that they are in the right to do that. This doesn't mean I approve their policies though, because the nation as a whole has become xenophobic in the process.

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Umm yes... This is correct. They do.

But as far as traveling between the two destinations is concerned, they can sail in international waters and bypass any area that would be claimed as Canadian. I'm not sure if that is what they do, and I doubt it is for air, but it is an option.

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Why you would want a province with so much history and culture to no longer be a part of our Country. That is a ridiculous thing to say. I agree that it is a mistake to present documents solely in French in a bilingual province but that one small town does not speak for all of Quebec. For the most part Quebeckers speak both French and English and are very open to talk in whatever language is easiest for you even if they aren't the greatest at it. Quebec is a very important and diverse part of Canada and if

you're too ignorant to see that well then I feel sorry for you.

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