WESTMOUNT – When you think of English communities in Quebec, Westmount is right up there.
It’s an old-stock town with more than half of its residents calling themselves anglophones.
The city is one of only six per cent in the province with official bilingual status.
But, for such an anglophone community, if you take a close look driving through Westmount streets, you’ll notice all city traffic and parking signs are in French only.
“I’m extremely surprised. It’s a bilingual municipality,” said lawyer and Anglophone rights activist Harold Staviss, who noticed the French-only signs a few months ago.
He pointed out the neighbouring communities of Hampstead, Côte Saint-Luc and Montreal-West all boast bilingual status and they all have bilingual parking signs.
Staviss contacted the City of Westmount, asking why it was different.
Mayor Peter Trent told him the city adopted its current signage law in 1995.
The city recently got another legal opinion and maintains that under the Charter of the French language, those signs must be French only.
“As far as we are concerned, this is a matter we have dealt with,” said Westmount city councillor Philip Cutler.
“We want to get on to dealing with more important governance issues here in Westmount.”
Staviss disagrees, saying there are exemptions under the Charter for bilingual towns, and for safety reasons.
“Drive around Westmount, there is a sign that says ‘Attention à nos Enfants.’ To me, that is the most important safety sign ever that is only in French,” he said.
Staviss added since Westmount’s neighbours have bilingual signs, the city should follow suit.
“I think we have to stand up. It’s a municipality that has bilingual status,” Staviss said.
“We have to all stand up together. The English language is vanishing. If we are not going to standup as anglophones, no one is going to back us up.”
Westmount representatives insisted the matter, for now, is closed, but Staviss hopes other anglophones rally behind his cause, because it’s an issue he believes is an important one.