Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Brunswick Sign Laws

In my various publications, I've often taken a fairly strong stance against some provisions of Quebec's language laws, particularly early versions of the Charter of the French Language which prohibited signs in languages other than French. So the announcement of a proposed new bylaw in Dieppe, the francophone suburb/co-city of Moncton, New Brunswick which would mandate that all new signs must be either bilingual or in French, is intriguing to me.

I haven't viewed the proposed wording of the new sign bylaw, and I'll be curious to see if there is any language about how prominent French must be on bilingual signs. However, my initial reaction to the bylaw is a positive one. I've never had any major difficulty with language laws that are additive - requiring that another language co-exist or be promoted. Where I object is when these laws cross over into prohibition - denying any right to use another language. The bilingual compromise being proposed by Dieppe seems to meet the bill. Essentially, the bylaw appears to require some inclusion of French on commercial signs, leaving it up to individuals to decide if they also want to include another language. For a community which has essentially become the urban centre of the Acadian community, this seems to fall in the category of positive measures to encourage the use of French, without denying the rights of other language communities to express themselves in their own language.

Of course, I'm sure that there will soon be outbursts of complaints about what the translation costs involved are going to be. I think these will be overstated. And in light of Moncton's shameful historic treatment of its Acadian community (see: Leonard Jones), some encouraging measures are needed.

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At 7:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, you are actually about as far wrong as you could possibly get in your opinion of Dieppe's new commercial sign bylaw. As an anglophone resident of Dieppe (one of 5,000 according to Stats Canada), I find the new law to be oppressive and prejudicial.

Check the wording for yourself and then re-think your opinion: the bylaw states that all commercial signs must be either bilingual or French only. What about English only? Well, English only signs will result in a fine. So how is this law balanced if it targets one language and favours strongly another language? What if it was a similar bylaw in Toronto which stated all signs had to be bilingual or English only? Would that make sense and would that ever be permitted to see the light of day?

At 10:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Matt,

But you are entirely wrong about this by law. There is no equity in a bylaw that discourages the use of one of Canada's official languages. I am against any form of sign laws. Business owners should be able to operate in any language they choose. Secondly bilingual sign laws will increase the demand for bilingual workers, which decreases employment opportunities for unilingual anglophones and other bilingual minorities who do not use French as a second language. Third exterior bilingual or French only sign laws as Dieppe proposes will eventually branch off into interior sign laws, then perhaps even French only as the language of work. The federal government limits advancement for unilingual anglophones and other who do not speak French so it is easy to see what will happen in the private sector if the official languages Act is brought into it.

I know you are bilingual and see things differently as I. Sign laws are no threat to you and I am sure that if you feel you can learn a second language everyone should. Not everyone can nor does everyone want to. It is sad when I would rather consider living in the US than stay in my own country that I love because I dont feel a part of it when I see others trying to limit my language English in this country. To me, limiting the use of one language over another to bring what is termed equality is not Canadian. It is far from equality. In my world it is called discrimination.


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