Battle over English commercial signs ends with rejection at the Supreme Court
Lawyer Brent Tyler is steadfast in his belief that an injustice exists in Quebec when it comes to English commercial signs.
“Our people will never accept the idea that French must be twice the size of all other languages combined,” Tyler said.
The Supreme Court of Canada, however, is refusing to hear his challenge of Quebec’s sign laws and he admits he’s disappointed.
“As a Quebecer I am embarrassed by Pastagate,” he said from his Old Montreal law office. “We all should be.”
“There are other instances that will be just as stupid.”
Tyler first started his legal challenge of Quebec’s strict commercial sign laws with the Eastern Townships store the Lyon and The Walrus in 1998. It faced fines for violating Quebec’s language laws.
Over the years, Tyler has represented dozens of retailers fined for similar issues but eventually his cases dwindled to just nine merchants.
Despite losing many times in Quebec’s court system, he maintains his argument that the French language isn’t under threat in Quebec — and he believes full-size English signs should be allowed.
WATCH BELOW: The language of signs in Quebec
“The French language in no way can be considered vulnerable in the province of Quebec,” he said.
Gail Cantor is one of the merchants who just lost her case.
“I thought the idea of protecting anyone’s language by making it twice as large was a totally ludicrous solution,” she said.
Cantor, who now runs her family’s baking empire, used to own a string of small bakeries — including one in the Cavendish Mall.
She was fined almost $1,400 for English signs that violated Quebec’s language laws.
“I am still not sure I am willing to pay a fine I don’t agree with,” she said.
“I would prefer to go to jail.”
Despite Tyler’s battle, some English rights groups like Quebec Community Groups Network believe it’s time he moves on
“There are much more acute problems,” Geoffrey Chambers said. “I am sympathetic to Brent’s project but I don’t think it’s that important.”
Although Tyler has exhausted his legal challenges, he doesn’t plan on giving up. He promises to file a challenge to the United Nations, arguing Quebec’s language laws violate interanational treaties.