You can catch the whole report in French on the TVA website, but I've pulled out and subtitled the essential elements here.
Any story that interviews Mario Beaulieu as an expert on the subject of language rights, is automatically biased. The militant anglophobe believes that there are already too many francophone Quebecers who speak English and that English instruction should be limited, not encouraged. He just returned from Europe where he spent time telling anyone who would listen that Canada is an evil place and Anglo Canadians a vicious race of colonizers.
The only good news on that front, is that the Europeans couldn't care less.
The story also cited as a contributing factor in the 'deteriorating' sign situation, the fact that Anglos are moving to Laval in increasing numbers and even provided a graph to highlight the 'problem.'
I wonder if it would be acceptable in any other province for a television program to offer a similar graph showing an alarming influx of Tamils, Chinese, Muslims, Jews, Natives or Blacks!
Could you imagine an Ontario television station putting up a graph highlighting a Francophone invasion of a particular neighbourhood in Ottawa and intimating that it is upsetting the linguistic balance!
I don't think so.....
The graph on the J.E. show underlines the sad fact that complaining about Anglos moving into a neighbourhood is perfectly acceptable as long as it is framed in context of the defence of the French language.
And this isn't an isolated case, the French language militant group Imperatif-francais blasted the City of Laval officials over the same issue and accused them of doing nothing to counter this 'alarming' influx. LINK
Then there's the lovely woman interviewed for the story who told viewers that English shouldn't be allowed on signs anywhere in Quebec, an excellent way to frame the story.. ahem...
Now the gist of the story is about the size of English text on signs, with the commentator reminding viewers that the law demands that the French text be twice as big as the English text.
I've had a problem with this very issue ever since the 'rule' was put in place, because it doesn't make sense as a regulation and it doesn't really satisfy the Supreme Court ruling.
Actually the last part about French being twice as large as English is NOT part of the law. It is a common misconception."In 1993, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that Quebec's sign laws broke an international covenant on civil and political rights. "A State may choose one or more official languages," the committee wrote, "but it may not exclude outside the spheres of public life, the freedom to express oneself in a certain language."Reacting to these events, Bourassa introduced new legislation in 1993. This law allowed English on outdoor commercial signs only if the French lettering was at least twice as large as the English." LINK
What the law actually says;
Les articles 58 58.2 de cette charte sont remplacés par le suivant:
«58. L'affichage public et la publicité commerciale doivent se faire en français.
Ils peuvent également êre faits la fois en français et dans une autre langue pourvu que le français y figure de façon nettement prédominante.
Toutefois, le gouvernement peut déterminer, par règlement, les lieux, les cas, les conditions ou les circonstances o l'affichage public et la publicité commerciale doivent se faire uniquement en français ou peuvent se faire sans prédominance du français ou uniquement dans une autre langue.». LINK
In other words, the law says that French must be clearly predominant. It says nothing about size and leaves that determination to be fixed later by regulation.
The OQLF was given the mandate to enforce the language law and it was the agency that came up with the interpretation of the two to one ratio rule for text on signs, French versus English.
There has been a couple of cases that went to court and subsequently backed up the OQLF position, but the issue has never been tested on the level that I describe below.
At what point does 'nettement predominante' become so overbearing that it has the effect of rendering the English unreadable and so ipso facto, in contravention of the United Nations covenant that English be allowed?
Here's the example the J.E story uses itself. It shows an actual sign in Laval (on top) that contravenes the 2/1 ratio regulation and shows an artist's conception (below) of how the sign should appear to abide by the regulation.
This montage is not my work, it was offered on the television story as a teaching aid and you can see clearly (or unclearly) what the problem is.
When the French text is set to the minimum size that can be reasonably read from the distance from which the sign is expected to be seen, reducing the English to half that size makes it unreadable, something that clearly violates the UN convention.
When the 2/1 ratio rule is applied to large signs, it may be in conformity, but when it comes to smaller text, the application of the rule becomes ridiculous.
Here's another sign featured in the story, it's a sign in front of a professional office.
This time I did the photo manipulation myself to show you what would be required under the 2/1 ratio regulation.
From the distance that the sign would be viewed normally, the English text looks like the bottom line of an eye-chart, the line that nobody can read!
Watching the story on television and looking at the examples provided, convinces me that the regulation, in instances where the size of French is smallish, cannot be enforced legally.
It may be time to take another run at Bill 101 in court concerning this 2/1 ratio issue, but we'd have to find a business that was fined over the issue of ratios in small sized text on a commercial sign.
I'm not sure that the OQLF is fining anyone over this 'small text' issue at all, perhaps concerned that to do so, would place them at risk of having the regulation overturned.
A special Happy New Year to Jewish readers of this blog and their families.
As is the tradition, the family gathers around a special dinner to celebrate the Jewish calendar's version of the new year over two nights, tonight and tomorrow. Shana Tova!