Quebec’s French-only roadsigns will be replaced by pictograms, making it easier for non-French speakers to navigate the road in Canada’s province. English text on roadsigns would have violated Quebec’s language laws, which left little option but to remove French from the signs. The decision came to a head thanks to a petition of 7,000 signatures calling for the change, led by Montreal lawyer Harold Staviss and Cote Saint-Luc city Council Ruth Kovac, who both saw problems with the French-only signs.
“You’ve got tourists coming to Montreal, truck drivers coming from Ontario, from the rest of Canada, the United States, and they have no clue what French signage means,” Staviss told Global News Canada. Staviss cited several signs that the inability to read could be dangerous, such as one that says “Entrée interdite quand les feux clignotent,” and a sign leading up to the Ville-Marie Tunnel that says, “Respectez les feux de voies.” “I’m bilingual and there’s a lot of words on these signs where I have no clue. I have to take a dictionary and see what these words mean,” Staviss said.
The Ministry of Transport aims to improve technology on digital road signs to incorporate pictograms, as the signs currently can only process text. David Birnbaum told CTV News, “There are those electronic message boards. The technology didn’t always lend itself to taking pictograms, so there are words there. We have bought new technology so those message boards can now use pictograms, which are safer and clearer,” he said. “On those message boards, when we have a good pictogram, we’ll remove the unilingual French wording, because it just confuses.” The new road signs are set to go up by the end of 2018.
Not all Canadian politicians are singing the praises of the new signs, however. Jean-François Lisée said at a campaign event in Montreal that the use of French is in the decline in Quebec, and that while pictograms are good for non-French speaking tourists, French should not be removed from the signs. “We have a million American visitors here every year, so it’s good for security to have pictograms, but I would keep the French words,” he said.