Huntingdon mayor targeted by vandals after Bill 101 decision
MONTREAL - After refusing an order from Quebec's language watchdog to stop sending bilingual notices to residents, Huntingdon Mayor Stephane Gendron woke up on Saturday morning to find himself the target of vandals.
Calling the campaign a backlash for insisting on bilingualism, the mayor found the numbers "101" sprayed onto his home and his wife's car in bright orange paint.
"You don't promote a culture by crushing another one. These outsiders, they don't know Huntingdon," Gendron told CTV News. "The town is 44 per cent English Quebecers and I think it's commonsense to serve these people in their language."
On March 5, Huntingdon town council voted unanimously to reject the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise's order to only issue bilingual notices to residents who request them.
Despite the town not breaking the halfway mark necessary to have official bilingual status, the mayor told the press at the time that the town considers itself bilingual and has no plans to change how it operates.
"We will continue to communicate with the municipality of Huntingdon because we will still try to get them to change their minds so that the law can be applied," said Martin Bergeron, a spokesperson for the OQLF.
Bill 101, also known as the Charter of the French Language, is the law at the centre of the controversy. The bill framed the language rights of Quebecers when it was passed in 1977, limiting the exposure of citizens to English and other non-official languages.
With Huntingdon refusing to abide by the law, Gendron says the town is the target of a witchhunt by French-language extremists.
He says that the extremists are threatening business owners, taking photos of bilingual signs and sending complaints to the OQLF.
Calling the attack part of an "underground war," Gendron says he has been described as a traitor and he says he's been threatened. The mayor also pointed at websites and Facebook groups that are attempting to generate 1,000 official complaints.
"Having a common language is a factor of inclusion and not one of exclusion. French is the cement that links all of the citizens that form the Quebec people. Defending French in Quebec is a means of including Quebecers of all backgrounds and mother tongues," Mario Beaulieu, the president of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, wrote in La Metropole.
"They are so insecure that they want to attack us," said Gendron. "Its intellectual terrorism that is going on in Huntingdon."
Gendron says he will not be intimidated, he will never back down. The town plans to continue offering bilingual services.
Gendron had previously announced plans to step down sometime in the next few months and concentrate on his career hosting a television show on the V network.