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Terrasse councillors demand mayor apologize for English snub

  • Joggers enter Terrasse-Vaudreuil: the town's mayor has drawn flak for ordering her manager to speak in French to an English-speaking citizen.
    Joggers enter Terrasse-Vaudreuil: the town's mayor has drawn flak for ordering her manager to speak in French to an English-speaking citizen.
    Photo credit: Navneet Pall/The Gazette

Terrasse-Vaudreuil Mayor Manon Trudel said she was just following the language charter when she directed her manager to speak French at last Tuesday’s council meeting.

Trudel was criticized for telling the town manager, Ron Kelley, that he must speak in French to a longtime resident who had asked a question in English at the public meeting, after he struggled to express himself in French.

“You must understand that the municipality of Terrasse-Vaudreuil is legally a French community,” Trudel wrote in an emailed statement. “Therefore, we must respect the law according to the ‘Charter of the French Language’ better known as Bill 101 by speaking French during public meetings. However, upon request, the director general and I will translate the information.

“Unfortunately, during last Tuesday’s council meeting, if the English-speaking citizen did not completely understand the answer, he could have asked gently and I would have gladly translated.”

However, a spokesperson for the Office québécois de la langue française, said the manager was perfectly within his right to respond to a question in English, if he chose to do so.

“There is nothing that obliges a person to answer in French, when the question is asked in English,” explained Martin Bergeron, who speaks for the French-language protection body. “However, if a question is answered in English, it would be good for the elected officials to translate the answer into French for the benefit of the public.”

He added that speaking in English is a courtesy that is permitted under the law, but if the manager had decided to answer the question in French, he would have been within his rights to do so.

In the meantime, Trudel’s councillors say they’ll demand a public apology for the way she treated Bruce Washer, 82.

During the meeting, Washer asked several questions to town manager Ron Kelley about the town’s expenses. Washer had started asking the questions in French, but he switched to English at one point.

When he switched to English, Kelley responded in English, but Trudel interrupted him and told him he must answer in French, which he did.

Washer was a volunteer firefighter for the town of 2,000 on the northwestern tip of Île Perrot. He also volunteered in minor hockey and served as a councillor for 12 years, ending in the 1980s. As a regular attendee of council meetings, Washer said he often asks questions of council about its expenses.

“I’ve done my part here, and I try in French. She doesn’t want to talk to us English people because we ask too many questions,” Washer said. “It doesn’t make me feel very good.”

Councillors Penny Boulianne, Jean-Pierre Brazeau and Valerie Kirkman said they will ask Trudel for a public apology at the next meeting of the Terrasse-Vaudreuil caucus at the end of the month.

“I was shocked,” Boulianne said. “Mr. Washer tried to ask in French, but he switched because he was having trouble. As far as I’m concerned, that is a request for the manager to respond to him in English as well. I don’t think he needed to say that.”

Brazeau said Trudel has embarrassed the town.

“Now everyone looks stupid because of what she did,” he said.

jmagder@montrealgazette.com
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4 comments

  1. By Wayne McKinnon

    Typical arrogant response from a public servant who are there to represent the public equally but chose to deny customer service in a respectful way to one of its citizens, in order to follow a racists discriminatory law that is unconstitutional in accordance to the spirit of the our constitution regarding basic freedom of language rights.

  2. By Vincent Poirier

    How sad for the mayor to hide behind a bad law thereby missing a wonderful opportunity for upholding a principle through civil disobedience..

  3. By ian gray

    As a resident, I am saddened that the Town of Terrasse-Vaudreuil has become embroiled in the language debate, but what concerns me to a greater extent is that this public gaff by our mayor has drawn the attention away from the reason we were attending a public meeting in the first place. We have been working as a group of concerned individuals for the last 18 months to draw attention to a fiscally questionable project our mayor has drawn us into with the other municipalities of Ile Perrot. This project is the formation of an island wide Regie (RELIP) to construct and manage sports and recreation facilities. This agreement was entered into without any public consultation and may have financial consequences that we as citizens have no ability to refuse in the normal fashion due to the nature of the Regie.Mayor Trudel has been under constant pressure after passing the membership resolution with her tie breaking vote and I fear that this language issue may just be a way to throw an obstacle at the watchdog group that was formed and sadly is primarily english speaking.

  4. By Janet.Dedicik@gmail.com

    This is one small example of what we will continue to have to endure because the PQ has revived their focus on obliterating the Enflish language.a pox on gem for all this aggravation. Can’t we just live in harmony without all this stress over who speaks what to whom?
    I have a nightmare that the ultimate goal of the PQ is that,as an Anglophone, when , in the privacy of my own home, II talk tro myself, in the privacy

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