Huntingdon refuses order from language watchdog to be French-only
Published Wednesday, March 7, 2012 8:30AM EST
MONTREAL - Despite a warning from Quebec's language watchdog, the town of Huntingdon is looking to maintain its status quo and vows that it will continue sending bilingual notices to locals.
On Monday night, Huntingdon town council voted unanimously to reject the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise's order to only issue bilingual notices to people who request them.
"I think there's a problem here and it's not acceptable. It's a matter of fundamental rights," said Mayor Stephane Gendron. "If the office enforces the law, we won't be able to talk in English with our own citizens and we won't obey that kind of order from the office. Never."
While 40 per cent of the population is Anglophone, not breaking the halfway mark necessary to have official bilingual status, the mayor said the town considers itself bilingual and has no plans to change how it operates.
Pamphlets and bulletins at town hall are currently bilingual and residents receive bilingual notices in the mail. The OQLF says it has received complaints.
"We have received a complaint from a citizen," said Louise Marchand, the director general of the OQLF. "French is the official language of Quebec and the great, great majority of Quebecers, despite their mother tongue, support that law."
Citing the Charter of the French Language, the watchdog ordered the town in January to provide information only in French. Gendron said he felt it was more important to respect the town's aging Anglophone population.
Despite the town council's move receiving a lot of support in the community, the minister responsible for the OQLF, Christine St-Pierre, said that the municipality's actions were going against a "consensus 35 years in the making.
"This is the world upside down […] there is no question that we will not reopen the Charter. The rules on the bilingualism statute of certain municipalities are clear," said St-Pierre.
Calling the OQLF's rules "discriminatory and racist," Huntingdon town council is asking the Charest government to reopen Bill 101 and allow municipalities to serve citizens in both languages.