Quebec agrees to replace French-only highway signs with pictograms

WATCH: Language activists are rejoicing after the provincial government said it would agree to change French-only highway signs to pictograms. Global's Dan Spector reports.

If you’ve ever used Quebec roads, you’ve seen unilingual French highway signs.

People who live in Montreal generally understand what they mean, but what about all the people who have no understanding of French?

Montreal lawyer Harold Staviss and Cote Saint-Luc city Coun. Ruth Kovac saw this as a problem.

“You’ve got tourists coming to Montreal, truck drivers coming from Ontario, from the rest of Canada, the United States, and they have no clue what French signage means,” said Staviss.

READ MORE: Petition to make Quebec road signs bilingual to be presented Tuesday

Among other examples, he cited a sign near an on-ramp to the Ville-Marie Expressway that reads: “Entrée interdite quand les feux clignotent,” and a sign leading up to the Ville-Marie Tunnel that says, “Respectez les feux de voies.”

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“I’m bilingual and there’s a lot of words on these signs where I have no clue. I have to take a dictionary and see what these words mean,” Staviss said.

He and Kovac decided to do something about it.

“Ruth Kovac and myself started a petition to ask the Quebec government to change the French-only highway signs into bilingual,” he explained.

Their petition got 7,000 signatures and support from David Birnbaum, an anglophone member of the National Assembly.

READ MORE: Movement pushes for more bilingual road signs in Quebec

“I was pleased to present the petition prepared by Ruth Kovac and Harold Staviss,” Birnbaum told Global News.

Putting English on the signs would have broken language laws, but as a result of the petition, Quebec agreed to switch French-only highway signs for pictograms.

“According to the charter of the French language, if there’s a pictogram, then the pictogram goes into use,” Staviss said.

Birnbaum said even electronic signs will soon have pictograms.

“The Ministry of Transport has looked for the technology to improve those message boards so they can properly depict pictograms,” said Birnbaum.

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“I think it’s a great victory,” said Staviss.

The transport minister tells Global News the switch has already begun.

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