Language tension in Verdun

By Tracey Arial

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 last month.

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 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 Reverend 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.
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