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Dieppe (Moncton,NB) pushes French, bilingual sign bylaw

Proposed sign law open for discussion in January

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 | 6:13 AM AT

CBC News

 

Dieppe is proposing a bylaw that will require all future commercial signs on the exterior of buildings in the southeastern New Brunswick city to be either in French or bilingual.

 

Dieppe city councillors brought forward the sign bylaw on Monday night in an attempt to quell a long-simmering debate in the francophone city over the number of English-only signs.

 

The proposed bylaw is not in force yet and the city will give people opposed to the idea a chance to speak at a public meeting in January.

 

The move was greeted with applause by people in the audience at Monday night's meeting, including Martin Rioux-LeBlanc, who ignited the debate after gathering 4,000 names on a petition in January in an attempt to get bilingual signs in the city.

 

"It's a big step for New Brunswickers, it's a big step for Dieppe and we can be proud of that," Rioux-LeBlanc said.

 

The bylaw states that any new signs that go up in Dieppe will have to be either in French or bilingual, but existing signs would not be affected.

 

Dieppe, a city of roughly 18,000 people, is the province's only francophone city that offers municipal services in both official languages.

Natural progression

 

Dieppe Mayor Jean LeBlanc said the proposal is a natural progression from years of trying to convince businesses through education to switch from English-only signs.

 

"Dieppe has been promoting French and promoting French culture — the linguistic landscape of our city — for a long time. This is just a continued progression towards making sure our community is well reflected," the mayor said.

 

Dieppe, along with its neighbouring Moncton, are popular shopping destinations for people in the Maritimes and have attracted a large number of businesses in recent years. However, most business signs are still in English only, which is what instigated the petition to adopt a new sign bylaw.

 

Although New Brunswick is officially bilingual, the province's language law does not cover the private sector. So any regulation over the language on signs in municipalities must come from the local government.

 

Municipalities are covered under the Official Languages Act, if they are designated as a city or have an official language minority that forms 20 per cent of the population. That would require, for instance, local bylaws to be published in both official languages, but it would not extend to commercial signs.

Positive regulation

 

Michel Doucet, a prominent constitutional lawyer who specializes in language law at the University of Moncton, has been pushing the city to pass such a bylaw.

 

Doucet said this is a step forward for bilingualism.

 

"It's something that will be very difficult for somebody, who is in good faith, to oppose this," Doucet said.

 

"What the municipality has done is ensure that the linguistic image for this municipality transpires through its sign law. And I believe that the council now needs the support of the people of Dieppe to come forward and to congratulate what the council has done."

 

Along with the public meeting on the bylaw that is planned for January, Dieppe city council is also seeking an opinion from the Greater Moncton Planning Commission on the bylaw.

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