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Out here, there’s more bilingualism than official status. And that’s nice

Last week, St-Lazare was reluctantly dragged into what is shaping up to be another round in the language debate in this province.

The Office québécois de la langue française informed the town that it had to adhere to rules outlined in the French Language Charter. Namely, it must stop providing services in both French and English because it does not have official bilingual status.

It did not go over well with many residents. But the town will comply. The mayor said he would not spend any taxpayer money to fight the request. Instead, he pointed out how the town will attempt to continue to provide information in English to those who want it. It can be done with a little outside-the-box thinking.

Then, the PQ government announced Bill 14, changes to Bill 101. Included in these amendments is a move to strip municipalities of their bilingual status if the number of English residents drops below the 50-per-cent mark.

In the Off Island, only two towns have official bilingual status – Hudson and Pincourt.

Hudson has nothing to fear. It is very English; more than 65 per cent of its population, according to the 2011 census, list English as their mother tongue.

In Pincourt it’s a different story. Just under 35 per cent of residents in the 2011 census claimed to have English as their mother tongue. Under the proposed guidelines, it would lose its right to communicate with residents in both languages.

Maybe it should take a cue from St-Lazare and instead of fighting the provincial government in what is an unfair fight – let’s face it, Bill 101 is not there to promote bilingualism – it should look for new ways to communicate.

We live in the era of social networking. There are new ways to communicate. Wouldn’t it be nice if little towns in the Off Island could blaze a new open trail on the language front?

You just have to spend a little time in St-Lazare, Pincourt or just about any little town out here to discover that they are perfect examples of how wonderfully and respectfully bilingual we are. Just about everyone openly can – and willingly does – function in both languages. Let’s keep it up.

Brenda O’Farrell

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