Brian Murphy finished the last leg of his road trip through Quebec on Monday. He and three friends – four, if you count his dog Cocoa – were visiting from Pennsylvania.
Murphy said it’s not their first time here. They love visiting Montreal and Quebec City.
“We love the culture and the old buildings and whatnot,” he said, but added they often have trouble following the French-only road signs.
“Even things like the exit signs… they are almost always in French,” Murphy said. “It would be very helpful to have it in English because it is, at the end of the day, (for) safety.”
That’s why Montreal lawyer Harold Staviss and a colleague started a petition to make all road safety signs in the province bilingual. MNA David Birnbaum will present the petition, with almost 7,000 signatures, in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
“It’s not a matter of language, it’s a matter of safety,” Staviss said.
The French Language Charter allows safety signs to be in English as well as French, however, it’s up to the discretion of the Transport Ministry. The government said it won’t comment until it’s had time to study the petition but a spokesperson for the transport minister said 90 per cent of Quebec road signs are pictographs. He added that signage near the border is bilingual.
Some Quebec City tourists say that’s not enough.
“My French is atrocious so if I were driving, it could be dangerous,” said Ross Jones, an Australian tourist.
“I like pictograms as well if they’re really simple, but sometimes they’re not as simple as everyone takes for granted,” added Neil Linceley, another Australian tourist.
One Toronto family pointed out signs are bilingual in Ontario.
“I think it’s good to have bilingual [signs] so everyone can kind of read both of them,” Carly Beard said.
Staviss admits he doesn’t know of any accidents that were caused by French-only signs but that it wouldn’t hurt to have some English anyway.
“In my opinion, and I’m sure in a lot of people’s opinions, the Quebec government is worried they’re going to tarnish the French language and they’re going to get rid of the French language and it’s not going to,” he said.
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