The Parti Québécois takes threats to the french language in Quebec very seriously. So seriously, it seems, that they’re prepared to defend the language of the land against not only the encroachment of English, but also easy-to-read pictograms.
PQ leader Jean-François Lisée “condemned” an announcement from the current Quebec Liberal Minister of Transport that, where possible, unilingual French signs will be phased out in favour of more universally comprehensible pictograms. He blasted the Couillard government for failing to defend the french language 100% of the time. Transport Minister Martin Girard points out that the gradual process of replacing uni-lingual traffic signs with easy-to-read symbols has been taking place for years across the province, and that 90% of road signs in Quebec already use pictograms. He says the project aims to bring Quebec road signs in line with practices already in place across North America.
Lisée concedes that adding pictograms to existing signs is a good idea, but is resistant to the removal of french text. He says having bothfrench text and images at least affords an opportunity forvisiting Americans and other anglophones to learn new french vocabulary.
Liberal David Birnbaum presented a petition signed by more than 7,000 Quebecers to the National Assembly last year calling for the remaining unilingual french road signs across the province to be replaced by bilingual French/English ones. Promoters of the petition said it was a question of road safety, and that bilingual signs would make sharing the roads safer for speakers of both languages.
At the time, the government was reluctant to respond directly to the petition due to the controversial nature of the language question in the province. The government’s position was then, as it is now, to opt for pictograms where feasible in order, “to preserve the French environment of Quebec while being aware of the health and safety issue.”
While it may seem frivolous, the surfacing of this issue shows that no issue is too trivial and no policy safe from criticism during an electoral campaign in la belle province. The Parti Quebecois continues to attempt to hold its place in the political landscape as themost steadfast and unwaveringdefender of the french language.
Earlier this week Lisée criticized the CAQ’s proposal to deport immigrants who haven’t achieved a level of proficiency in French after three years, saying it’s irresponsible to admit immigrants in the first place who don’t speak the language. At the same time, the PQ proposed forcing anglophone students to attend at least one academic session at a francophone institution as as requirement to receive college-level certification.
Quebec voters go to the polls on October 1.