The wish of some Ontario francophones to live in a fantasy world regarding the importance of the French language outweighs their neighbours’ Charter right to freedom of expression — according to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Okay, okay — that’s not quite how the court put it. But that is nevertheless the essence of last week’s decision in the case of Jean-Serge Brisson and Howard Galganov against Russell Township.
Four years ago, 70% of the commercial signs outside businesses in Russell Township (a municipality of about 15,000 people near Ottawa) were bilingual. For a group of francophone zealots, 70% wasn’t enough. They entreated town council to make bilingual signs mandatory for all businesses.
The proposal was highly controversial among both anglophones and francophones. Two local chambers of commerce opposed it. A committee struck by council recommended against it. Nevertheless, council passed the by-law by a 3-2 vote, requiring all new exterior commercial signs to be bilingual, with the dimension and style of lettering being identical in French and English.