Language tension in Verdun

October 27, 2014
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Community groups serving English-speaking residents in Verdun have been feeling more language tension in the borough recently.

The borough’s reluctance to mirror their website in English and bilingual brochures were among the key subjects at One-Stop Shopping, a gathering organized by the Southwest United Church and Mission a few weeks ago.

Some of the groups who participated were concerned about the high cost of recreating French and English brochures instead of the many bilingual pamphlets on offer at the event. They described a situation in which English was treated like pornography at the local CLSC because English information can’t be seen publicly but only handed out discreetly to people who ask.

There’s no requirement whatsoever for community groups to have two brochures,” said Jean-Pierre Le Blanc, a spokesperson for the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF).  “As long as French is there, there can be other languages as well.”

The CLSC situation is complicated because the health ministry operates separately from us, but I would think that brochures would fall under our mandate,” he continued. “We do suggest that other government organizations have two brochures, one in English, another in French, but that’s not even the law, it’s just a suggestion. Perhaps that’s where someone somewhere has misunderstood our instructions.”

Leblanc also confirmed that the Verdun borough has every right to mirror their website in English as long as the main one is available solely in French. The question came up because borough communications officer Francine Morin recently claimed that the borough is waiting for instructions from the OQLF before acting on the issue.

As far as a website is concerned, there is nothing that prevents another version in English,” said Leblanc. “They have to have one in French, but that doesn’t prevent them also from having one in English too.”

Leblanc did confirm that posters on the CLSC walls must be unilingually-French, unless a health crisis is involved.

That requirement frustrates English community groups working hard to get news about their services more widely known.

We are very inclusive and welcome Francophone neighbours at all of our events, but our key market is Anglophone families,” said Reverand David Lefneski, who heads the United Church and Mission. “We will not do unilingual posters. That would be a lie about who we are: a community that’s English-speaking and open to the wider community.”

The CLSC has since confirmed that community groups can continue providing bilingual brochures for counsellors to give out, but that posters must be solely in French.

Note 1: This article appeared on page 3 of the City edition of the Suburban on October 22, 2014. As of April 26, 2020, the borough of Verdun still has not mirrored its website in English.

Note 2: After this article went out on Twitter in 2014, Ken Quinn responded.

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  • Douglas Jack says:

    Wonderful statement about the tragedy of our diverse communities involved with the CLSC (Centre locale des services communautaire ie Local community Service Centre). I am functionally bilingual & love the French, English & other languages (Sign-language, Russian, Spanish etc.) but there is a tragedy of forced compliance which is negating multilingualism. Language proficiency grows from a love of diverse communication, not of dominance. Such exclusivity is not the vision which the diverse Quebec community health activists had when the CLSC’s were established in the 1970s. Health-care is a human right for the 100s of 1000s of diverse language speakers in Cosmopolitan Montreal & not just of the provincial French majority. Its critically important in community health care which the CLSC is responsible for, that the population have access to & understanding of health & social programs. The CLSC’s should be working with diverse communities to help in translation of both language & culture for diverse populations. Those with foreign medical & other certification should be taken on as partners to the CLSC’s & other health-professional bodies. Elders, handicapped & youth adept in other languages are having their health put in jeopardy with a lack of appropriate services. The French population (part of my ancestry) is treating languages & livelihood as exclusive competitions. For decades the Office de la langue francaise OLF has terrorized English & other language speakers not to include us as equal partners but to grab our community numbers into their institutional unilingual services for their employment & exclusive health-service provision. When the 1st Nations were sovereign here, they welcomed & included the original European refugee settlers before Europeans accelerated their genocidal programs. Over 100 1st Nation languages across Turtle-Island (North-America) were united by use of the graphic language character symbols written & signed (drawn in the air between two people). Hence Turtle-Islanders could communicate across the continent & even hemispherically. This same graphic-language pictorial language capacity was stylized across all continents such as the Incan, Aztec or Mediterranean Hieroglyphic represented in times before colonization or Chinese Characters still represent today for over 50 languages. Who would have thought that inclusive cultural collaboration can be more productive than exclusive colonial competition? https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/structure/5-collaborative-language

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