From The Gazette

Pierrefonds

Pierrefonds-Roxboro continues effort to hang on to its bilingual status

  • Monique Worth
    Monique Worth
    Photo credit: Gazette file photo

Of the 19 boroughs that make up the city of Montreal, only one has official bilingual status. And it wants to keep it.

It’s unclear, however, if the city of Montreal will support its efforts.

In January, the borough council of Pierrefonds-Roxboro, population 68,600, unanimously passed a resolution opposing the aspects of Bill 14 that would strip it of its bilingual status and its right to use both official languages on signs and services offered on its website and in written communications with its citizens.

“The population of Pierrefonds-Roxboro has been used to living together and we never had any problems with communications,” said borough mayor Monique Worth, who is francophone, and whose husband is anglophone. “When people come to the borough hall, we’ve always answered in their language and citizens can address us in any language they want. We’ve always been very respectful of that and that’s what we want to keep.”

Under Bill 14, the Parti Québécois government’s proposed law to strengthen the French Charter, the provincial government could revoke a municipality’s bilingual status if the number of residents who list English as their mother tongue falls below 50 per cent of the population. At present, only 31 per cent of Pierrefonds-Roxboro citizens list English as their first language. The rest have French (28 per cent) or another language (35 per cent).

In its resolution, Pierrefonds-Roxboro states it wishes to retain its bilingual status irrespective of fluctuations in census numbers because it is “fundamental to the character of the borough and as a testament of the historical presence of both the English- and French-speaking communities in the borough.

The borough “vigorously opposes” any legislation that allows a municipality or a borough’s bilingual status to be removed, the resolution reads.

Worth said residents have been supportive of the resolution, which will be presented Montreal’s next city council meeting on Monday of next week.

Independent city councillor Marvin Rotrand sent a letter to the executive committee, the city’s main decision-making body, suggesting it support the borough publicly by having the city council adopt a declaration of support. He hasn’t had a response.

“It’s possible that the new city executive, which includes persons from the two opposition parties which have a decidedly less federalist coloration, may wish to avoid the issue,” Rotrand said. “I think it would be wrong to do so, and I believe most Montrealers think that most of Bill 14 is mean-spirited and does little to enhance French.”

He noted that the overwhelmingly French South Shore municipality of Longueuil quietly supported its borough of Greenfield Park by helping it to draft a similar resolution in early February. However, even though Longueuil Mayor Caroline St-Hilaire, a former Bloc Québécois MP, helped write the resolution, she was not prepared to comment on it publicly this month because only the borough had voted on it, her publicist said. The Longueuil borough was scheduled to vote on the issue Tuesday night.

Montreal’s mayor’s office said Tuesday it was planning to wait and see what the amendments are made to Bill 14 before taking a stand on the issue.

“We understand the preoccupations of Pierrefonds-Roxboro,” said Jonathan Abecassis, spokesman for Mayor Michael Applebaum.

Already under considerable fire, it is unlikely that Bill 14 will pass in its current form since it is being promoted by the minority PQ government and the Liberals don’t support it.

That would please Worth, who notes that her borough is made up of a residents who speaks a wide variety of languages, and do their best to communicate.

“It’s not about English or French,” she said. “It’s just about respect.”

 

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