Petition launched to bilingualize Westmount parking signs

Westmount's unilingual French parking signs.

Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss is launching an online petition on change.org, stating that all parking signs in the city of Westmount should be in English and French.

Staviss, who with Côte St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac has been calling on businesses and institutions in areas with significant anglophone populations to have bilingual content on signs and in communications, has been in touch with Mayor Peter Trent on the parking signs issue in the last several months.

Westmount’s parking signs have been unilingual French since 1995, when the Office de la Langue Française (now the OQLF) ordered the city to replace its signs that were non-compliant with Quebec’s language laws. Trent told Staviss in recent months that his city’s legal department stated that parking signs are traffic signs and must be in French only.

But when the OQLF recently confirmed that Westmount’s parking signs are not traffic signs and could be bilingual with French predominating, Trent announced that the signs would be replaced with bilingual ones, but gradually, as part of a “low priority” project.

This prompted Staviss to launch his latest petition. A previous one resulted in the Cineplex chain installing bilingual signage at several movie theatres.

The latest petition involving Westmount states that Hampstead, Cote St. Luc, Montreal West, Town of Mount Royal and Dollard des Ormeaux, all of which have bilingual status, have parking signs in both French and English.

“Westmount, also a municipality having bilingual status, has all their parking signs solely in French, notwithstanding their legal right to have them in both French and English,” the petition adds. “Mayor Peter Trent has only committed to install bilingual parking signs when the current ones need replacement; and how often are parking signs replaced — every 10, 15 or 20 years?”

Staviss adds in the petition that he does not consider Trent’s commitment to change the signs to be “a commitment at all.

“It is very surprising indeed that an English mayor of a municipality having bilingual status would not want to have the English language be as visible and as viable as possible,” the petition says. “Mayor Trent, the time to replace the unilingual French parking signs for bilingual ones is now— it is just a matter of respect.”

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