I'm loathe to say that the proposal is meeting with a firestorm of criticism, because just as in Quebec, the publicity surrounding those militating against the proposal, far outweighs what popular opinion represents. Read a newspaper story about the opposition to French signs.
A note to readers- both of these towns have a significant francophone population, so bilingual signage is not pandering to a tiny percentage of citizens.
Listening to the arguments of those against 'forced bilingualism' is just as exasperating as listening to the cretinous arguments made by French language zealots in Quebec, who also believe that any sign in the opposite language is an automatic step towards assimilation.
The argument that "forcing" merchants to post bilingual signs is an attack on 'freedom of expression' is particularly specious. Those against the bilingualism proposal, hold that merchants be allowed to post signs in whatever language they want to, with the public acting as final arbiter, voting with their wallets whether to support the business or not.
Our society has long ago decided that the government has not only the right but the obligation to regulate business practices and so, for example, there are laws concerning product safety and food labelling that force manufacturers to follow certain manufacturing norms along with the obligation to disclose ingredients on their product's labels, in both official languages. Should these requirements be voluntary?
A bylaw demanding bilingual signs is no more an attack on freedom than a bylaw demanding that a restaurant keep clean or that merchants not sell cigarettes to minors.
Speed limits, red lights and stop signs are all restrictions on our movement. Hate laws are a restriction of freedom of expression. Labour laws are a restriction on employers ability to exploit workers and health and safety laws restrict how we prepare food or operate equipment.
There will always be those who argue that wearing a seat belt in a car or a helmet while operating a motorcycle is an abusive restriction on freedom.
Regulation, by definition is a restriction of freedom, but certain restrictions are deemed reasonable and desirable and society has long accepted regulation as a necessary evil.
New Brunswick English language militants may argue that bilingual signage is a restriction on 'freedom of expression,' but so what? The only question to be argued is whether that restriction is reasonable.
Forced bilingual signs in a community with significant numbers of both language groups is not only reasonable but downright neighbourly. Those who oppose it are language zealots.
Now to the story of two flags.
It seems that one of the radical English language groups opposing the proposed bylaw, the 'Anglo Society' asked permission to fly their flag over City Hall in Bathurst for a day, as a salute to their organization.
Now before I go on with the story, I want to explain that the Anglo Society is as nutty, shrill and as unreasonable as any of the militant French language groups in Quebec. Go over to their web site to see what I mean.
They similarly believe that any concession to the other language is an attack on the future viability of their own culture and language. Translate the content of their web site into French and it could easily be posted on that of the Mouvement Montréal français!
And so now, a real firestorm has broken out over the decision to fly this "Anglo Society" flag over city hall. When the town council was made aware of certain 'facts,' the invitation was withdrawn.
As you'd expect, there was also an outcry in Quebec against the flag raising in a variety of militant quarters, led by none other than the prolific Anglo-basher Louis Prefontaine who devoted a hate filled column about the injustice of it all.
Mr Prefontaine noted that the date that the flag was to be raised corresponded with that of the date that the City of Quebec was defeated by the English back in 1759. I don't know if the Anglo Society was aware of this fact and chose the date specifically, but Mr. Prefontaine chose to concentrate on this fact and railed against the insult, real or intended, with a vituperative blast. LINK (Fr)
"...For French speakers in North America - or what remained of them, the end of the French presence marked a turning point, a collective trauma, possibly as bad, if not more so, than the atomic bombings in Japan. The society of our ancestors was beheaded, our language was banned and more than two-thirds of the population of Acadia was deported. We had our land stolen, we were killed and destroyed. And now the English want to celebrate it?
.... a bit like the Germans hoisting the Nazi flag over Auschwitz."As you see, Mr. Prefontaine was none to pleased about the possibility of the Anglo Society hoisting their "Nazi" flag over Bathurst.
But wait, Mr Prefontaine has more to say about flags, this time about another flag incident that took place in Quebec.
Let me take you back to an article I wrote last year about the annual Fêtes Saint-Jean celebration in a Montreal neighbourhood where a controversy erupted over the decision by organizers to invite some English artists to perform. Read the story.
In the end, the organizers stood up to the militants and allowed the groups to perform amid some small protests. Almost all of the attendees expressed support for the inclusive decision of the organizers, which earned the event the undying enmity of French language militants.
At this year's celebration, a small group of militants was told that they could not enter the park to attend the show because of the controversial nature of the flag that they were bearing, to which Mr. Prefontaine had this to say;
".....On Wednesday, June 23, some people were barred from Pelican Park in Montreal, for the (Fete Saint Jean celebration) event called 'l’Autre St-Jean." What crimes did they commit? Were they in possession of explosives, rifles, knives, Molotov cocktails, chainsaws or tactical nuclear weapons? No. They waved a Patriot's flag, symbol of the desire of Quebec liberation for one hundred and fifty years.
So it seems that when it comes to flags, a Quebec terrorist flag is perfectly acceptable, while an Anglo Society flag in New Brunswick is an affront to all humanity.
The French have a wonderful saying - "Deux poids, Deux mesures," a delicious double standard.
I'll leave you all with one last quote from Mr. Prefontaine, one that I found sadly ironic;
Replace the word "English" with French and vice-versa and it pretty much sums up Mr. Prefontaine's own philosophy!"But for English extremists, one French word is a word too much. At a previous demonstration against bilingualism in Moncton, they marched carrying placards saying- "Bilingual Today, French Tomorrow"
Is the irony really lost on him?