Like many West Islanders ready to buy their first home, Jon Saxe decided two years ago to settle in Vaudreuil-Dorion, a municipality west of Montreal island.
Saxe generally enjoys the family-centred activities the municipality offers but when it comes to dealing with the city, it’s been a difficult task finding information in English.
Finding out more about their new home was made even more difficult when the city launched its French-only website.
“That was kind of disrespectful to me and the other anglophones that moved in the area,” Saxe said.
When clicking on the English tab of the website, users find a message from the city claiming French is the only accepted administrative language.
The page reads:
“Vaudreuil-Dorion is a unilingual French city, a status that was determined by the government of Quebec.”
And to offer services in both official languages, half the population must speak English as its mother tongue.
Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon defended the website.
“It’s the law – it’s the provincial law. It’s not municipal law, so we cannot go against the law,” he said.
The law Pilon refers to is the Charter of the French language Bill C-11.
But Quebec’s French-language office said in a statement it’s up every municipality to determine how much English information should be offered on a website, so long as French goes first.
Pierre Séguin, a mayoral candidate in Vaudreuil-Dorion’s upcoming municipal election, believes Pilon is misinterpreting the law.
“I can tell you that the law is not that strict,” Séguin said. “What I mean is that when you have 40 per cent of your population, nothing in the law prevents you from giving this high percentage of the population access… to English documents.”
Séguin, a lawyer by trade, thinks city council is out of step with the new reality of Vaudreuil-Dorion.
“I think Vaudreuil-Dorion right now is governed like a city in the 1970s,” Séguin said. “The reality has completely changed and I think that the municipal council right now is not open.”
As for Jon Saxe, he hopes Vaudreuil-Dorion will improve its English services to better serve all residents.
“I thought… they would already be somewhat closer to that point,” Saxe said. “It seems they are still very slow in that end.”
Anglophones who require documents in English can request them from city hall, Pilon noted.