Pincourt proudly promotes its bilingual status
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Pincourt Mayor Yvan Cardinal said the town will its bilingual status as a matter of respect for both segments of society that have contributed to make it a welcoming bedroom community for all residents.
Following news that the town of St. Lazare recently blacked out the words “vous acceuille” and “welcome” from signs on town property to comply with Quebec language policies, the Town of Pincourt said it will maintain its bilingual status, regardless of current population statistics, and provide all its residents with official bilingual services in either English or French upon request.
In an interview with Your Local Journal at town hall on December 4, Mayor Yvan Cardinal spoke of the importance of maintaining Pincourt’s bilingual status, saying that the town has never had a complaint from any residents and that bilingualism is a matter of respect for both segments of society that have contributed to make the town a welcoming bedroom community for all residents.
“We want to politically keep our bilingual status,” said Cardinal. “It’s part of our heritage and our history. A lot of our citizens choose to come to Pincourt because we’re bilingual. When you look at our history, we’ve never had a problem here with language.”
It’s not that Pincourt is totally emblazoned with bilingual signs everywhere you look. It’s more of a subtle type of bilingualism when it comes to signage in particular that indicates where town hall and its municipal workshops are located.
French and English have been a predominant part of the Pincourt’s history and Mayor Yvan Cardinal is determined to maintain the status quo to celebrate the cohesion of the French and English population, even though the town could apply to the provincial government to rescind its bilingual status and become unilingual French.
“Being bilingual is a plus for everyone,” Cardinal said. “You attract people because of it and from both sides of the fence. Some people are looking for a community where bilingualism is practiced – day in, day out.”
Pincourt received official bilingual status in the mid-‘70s after the provincial government adopted its official French language charter that required municipalities with a majority French population to provide services in French only. Towns and cities with an Anglophone population of at least 50 per cent were allowed to keep their bilingual services intact.
“Once you get that status, the only way you’re going to lose it is by a municipality applying to the provincial government to change their status,” said Town Manager Michel Perrier. “So far, the town has never made this move and we still have our bilingual status even though the language percentage of our citizens has shifted. There are more French-speaking people than Anglophones right now.”
Census figures from Statistics Canada for 2011 show that French is the language most frequently spoken in just under 50 per cent of households, with English at 35 per cent, French and English at 2 per cent, and languages other than French or English at just over 13 per cent; which represents an increase in the Allophone population of almost 10 per cent since 1996.
Cardinal said that in addition to its bilingualism, the town’s inclusionary practice of inviting residents of all ethnic backgrounds to participate in all the town’s activities as part of social development policy is what keeps attracting young families to settle in Pincourt.
“It’s a great asset,” said Cardinal. “We have a large multi-ethnic population now with people who speak about 14 other languages and the main reason they come here is because they can learn and practice both French and English. They’re able to immerse themselves in both languages.”
Perrier said it’s also important that the town recognizes the importance of the positive contributions made by its English-speaking population, most of them employees who worked at Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Dorval) Airport who flocked to the community in the mid-70s because of the less expensive housing options.
“It was the new suburb at the time. Houses were cheap compared to the West Island even back then,” said Perrier. “A lot of people who were working there were English-speaking.”
Perrier also said that being bilingual gives all its residents an advantage because even though English and French speaking parents may not be proficient in the other’s language, children easily pick up other languages when they interact with each other.
“Let’s face it, most immigrants when they come, the first other language they learn is English because it’s the language spoken all over the world,” said Perrier. “But by coming here to Pincourt, the parents who are more fluent in English, can still be served in their language while their kids will not only keep their own language, but they’ll pick up English and French as well.”