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August 04, 2011

Burlington City Council Proposal to Make BTV a Québec Colony

Quebec_flag From the "Is This Really Necessary?" and the "This Makes Us Look Desperate" desks:

On Aug. 8, Burlington City Council will consider a proposal sponsored by councilors Norm Blais and Paul Decelles that would, in effect, make the city a colony of our neighbor to the north, Québec. Or, I should say, nos voisins du Nord. The proposal rests on the premise that Burlington is ostensibly nothing more than a southern vacation destination for Québecois and damn it, we should act like it. To accommodate our francophone visitors, we should print menus in French, make sure merchants can make transactions in French and include French on our street signs. You know, because STOP is pretty tough to translate.  

The resolution makes the case that because Burlington has always had some Québecois presence, either in the form of immigrants or tourists, we should be doing more to accommodate and honor them. Especially, as Ken Picard discusses in his recent story about the Québecois influence on our local economy, it's francophone money-spenders who are keeping us from sinking into a deep, dank pit of despair and lawlessness brought on by economic meltdown.

It seems to me we're already doing quite a lot. Burlington merchants have put "Bienvenue Québecois" stickers in their windows signaling that they will gladly relieve the Québecois of their money. There's a French tent on Church Street to give wayward francophone tourists directions to Leunig's in their own tongue. And employees who have dealings with Québecois visitors have access to free French lessons so they can say "That will be $3.72" in French. Hell, we might as well volunteer to porter their overstuffed shopping bags as well.   

Photo_carber_flasque Blais (pronounced Blay), who has French-Canadian ancestry, says this resolution, which is advisory, not mandatory, is long overdue. No doubt it's spurred in part by the fact that our long-since-tanked American dollar has made it all the more attractive for our neighbors to drop some crazy loonies and twoonies in Burlington. 

"It's an appropriate time to send a message across the border that we're extending the hand of friendship," Blais says.    

I'd argue we're doing more than laying out the welcome mat and offering a friendly handshake with the resolution — we're organizing a flipping ticker-tape parade, building floats in the shape of the fleur de lys and tossing little maple candies to all the kiddies. But you can judge for yourself. Below are some of the suggestions from the draft resolution. 

BE IT RESOLVED, that is it the policy of the City of Burlington that accommodation of francophone natives and visitors to our region is in the public interest, and should be enhanced whenever practicable, and

File:Poutine BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that public signage and visitor information within the City of Burlington and at the Airport  should be made English/French bilingual in significant measure, and that private businesses, especially retail and hospitality-related businesses, should be and hereby are encouraged to make their signage, maps, menus, and other materials bilingual, and that regional highway signage should become bilingual in significant measure as well, and   

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Burlington retail and hospitality businesses should be and hereby are encouraged to affirmatively hire employees with French language skills, and encourage and support existing employees to acquire and enhance such skills, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Burlington Public Schools and other area public and private school systems should be and hereby are encouraged to ensure that all area youth acquire basic familiarity with the French language, and with the history and culture of francophone societies around the world, especially as related to our region, and

File:Zamboni BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that regional school systems and institutions of higher learning should be and are hereby encouraged to expand and enhance their opportunities for adults to learn French and to appreciate our regional francophone culture and history, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED*, that all Vermonters should be and are hereby encouraged to say ridiculous French phrases learned in middle school French class like "Sacrébleu!," "Mais, oui!," "Bien sur!" and "Zut alors!"  when in the presence of native French speakers to show them that we're making an effort to communicate, and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED*, that every Burlington restaurant should be and are hereby encouraged to serve only poutine, smoked meats and things made out of maple to make our Québecois guests feel as though they never left home, and 

Labatt_bleue BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED*, that hockey should be made the official city sport and that Church Street should be made into a gigantic ice rink, which city workers will maintain with a Zamboni machine imported from Canada, and that every child born in Burlington will be given a pair of hockey skates the minute they pop out of the womb, and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED*, that Lake Champlain should be drained of all its water and refilled with Labatt Bleue.

If that doesn't make the Canads come down, nothing will.  

*Not real

Photos via Wikipedia.

Here's a google translation to get M. Ober started on the proper path:

Burlingtonians are always welcome to La Belle Province whether or not vous vous en souvenez.


Has someone been pissing in your Cheerios on a regular basis? Your last few articles have been nothing but bitterness and hostility. For a writter at 7 days you come across as very petty and close minded. You weren't like this in the past, so what's changed recently? If you've been attempting to sound funny lately, you've failed. I'm not sure what the issue is, but lately reading an article written by you has induced quite a few cringes and "WTF's"

What exactly is the issue with embracing a culture that's different from ours but located so close by? In Europe you can travel to many different countries within a few hours of driving or riding a train. Here we have Canada and Mexico. Yay. At least with Quebec we have the opportunity for something different, yet so close by.

Maybe you need a vacation. Or new meds. Either way, lighten the fuck up would ya?

Maybe we could repeal the "Freedom Fries" business while we're kissing Frenchie's bum.

I agree with Jeff - in your last blog post you picked on elderly people that embrace their sexuality, and now you're picking on Burlington's efforts to embrace Francophones? This is trash journalism...that is, if you could even call it "journalism"...You start out by suggesting the resolution would make BTV a Quebec colony, which is a lie (but you didn't include your silly asterisk to indicate that part was fake too)...and then go on to make fun of the whole effort. I thought Seven Days was supposed to be a progressive voice! I love humor, but Lauren's belongs in the toilet.

Lauren, I hope you never curb your humor! Satire is one of the most effective ways of making a point people listen to. These are public figures and their actions need to be scrutinized, and Seven Days is absolutely the best at that in Burlington.

Our city is plenty Queeb-friendly, as you point out, though it is a nice idea to encourage businesses to help employees have a better grasp on the French language -- is the City Council going to foot the bill?

It's probably worth noting that Quebec is officially bilingual. Yes, I know which language is primary...


Did you read the same post I did? Where in any of this post did Lauren use Satire or humor? Granted, it's been a while since I took a college class on Satire, but I recall that simply being mean doesn't qualify as satire. What bill are you speaking of that needs to be footed? Nothing in this resolution is mandated (as Lauren accurately points out) and is simply a suggestion. Private industry in Burlington has already passed the hat around to support french language lessons for members of the Church Street Marketplace, which i'm sure you're clearly aware of. Lauren's last few posts seem to be nothing more than vehicles to vent frustrations and rant.

Also, when I go to Montreal and break out my French skills (which are minimal but they exist), everyone condescendingly replies to me in English. I don't think they want us to try.

Who's going to pay for the new signs and the mandated education?

None of this is mandated, Cliff - it is advisory, a suggestion. For example, they could simply implement this suggestion as signs are replaced per the usual replacement schedule. (It's unfortunate that this post was full of stupid humor; if it stuck to regular reporting the facts would probably have been more clear.)

Regardez! Mme. Ober célèbre le retour des serpents de mer.


Perhaps you should visit other parts of the province than Montreal? In Quebec City they love interacting with outsiders learning their way through the French language.

MDR Jacques...oui! :)

Seven Days would be wise to invest some time in counseling, not only for a reporter who seems to have descended into a dark and aggressive mood but for any editors who could read such an article and not recognize that attacking a neighbor because their culture is different than ours is no way to run a supposedly progressive newspaper.

Perhaps the readers of this blog would be well advised to lighten up. Jeez. Is it news that 7 Days likes to be snarky? I mean really? Is THIS what offends you? Jokes about Canadians playing hockey and drinking Labatt? That's what you're going to get up in arms about?

Here's what I find offensive: city councilors taking up yet another nonbinding, completely meaningless resolution, yet again distracting from the very serious financial problems this city faces. If the city wants to engage in these cutesy matters, they can do so after they figure out how to pay Citibank the $33 million that they owe, and how they're going to pay all those city workers' pensions.

And for the record, I love Quebec, I visit there regularly and I'm of Quebecois descent. I'm also a hockey fan who understands the value of a bit of playful joking at others' expense.

I think putting signs in French and English makes more sense that the English /Spanish signs I see at Lowes.

More proof that 7 days has diminished in quality over past few years. Lauren's writing, particularly the stuff on Blurt is amateur hour at best, cringe-inducing at worst. Dan Bolles writing is equally juvenile. I don't blame them - I blame their editors who should be making them better writers.

Ok,we should improve our French, but we should also ask the Quebecois to learn to speak French too.

JM, you are clearly reading different articles than I am. Jokes are funny. What Lauren Ober has been writing lately isn't even close to funny. It isn't satire easy. It's ranting. And yes some of the fake resolutions would be funny if you didn't read what she had written above. Take this and add it to her post making fun of people who have posted in 7 Days own dating site (talk about biting the hand that feeds you!) and you have someone who is simply a mean spiritied individual. I thought I was reading 7 Days but I guess now it's trying to be Fox News Burlington.

Apologies for mistaking Lauren's name for a boy's - I've 'gone native' in Québec I guess.

"QEEBs"? - that's rich. Q visitors hate politically correct (langue de bois is what it's called) so push up the humo(u)r index a bit.

Why not start a "Banned in Canada" film festival in Burlington? Anything goes: "Slightly Higher in Canada" would be too easy. Why not a documentary on the Alberta tar sands followed by, say, Brigitte Bardot's crusade to save Canada's seals, followed by . . . something more culturally avant-garde?

Seriously, embrace "Queebs" by offering them a refuge from their own monoculturist boosterism and self-absorption.

Jeff, I agree that the dating post was over the line, but this? Um, not really. Just because you didnt think it was funny doesn't mean it was a travesty of journalism.

And your assertion that 7 Days is becoming Fox News is beyond absurd. Come on. A Fox News headline would be more like "Canadians Infiltrating City Council," anyway.

Maudit taberhuit tabernaque I love the satire Lauren and I'm a Montreal native still recovering from being hit by too many hockey pucks at a tender age. The Burlington City Council should simply pass a resolution requiring all Burlingtonians to have at least one illicit cross-border relationship a year, in lieu of paying city taxes. And a lake filled with Labatt Blue would make life so much easier for the boating crowd, for sure. No one would be lugging cases of 24 on board anymore. Of course, divers might take longer to surface. I thought only Canadians specialized in inferiority complexes but now it's clear the contagion has spread. In sum, I say, vive la difference, sister, and let's all just enjoy who we are where we are and remember that visitors here from la belle province also want to learn how to pronounce Cherry Garcia and Switchback!

In writing about tonight's meeting, wouldn't a reference to the large expected protest against Lockeed be actually relevant?

A huge turnout is expected given Lockheed helped block the 2009 Federal Climate legislation and just four weeks ago was instrumental in stopping six states in the Supreme Court from regulating climate change.

Why do we want their money?

A message to Jackie : I have been working within the customer service industry all my life in Montreal and I can assure you that we the employees are trained to answer back in English instead of french as soon that we notice that the mother tongue of the person we are serving is English. Nothing to do with being condescending, it is simply to be polite and welcoming with our guests. If you felt somehow that we were condescending it might be because you are a bit insecure among people that are somehow different from you.

For the record, Sacrébleu! and Zut alors! are not common idiomatic expressions in Québec.

This article is trying to talk about a group of people, but the caricature is obsene.

Imposing french on the local staff will not make an unwanted visitor feel welcomed. This is stupid.

Isabelle Bastien, québecoise, translator.

I'm a Burlington business owner, writing from Montreal, where I'm spending a few days on vacation. I can't speak a lick of French, but made the point to learn "Je ne parle pas Francais", which I bumble through regardless. I've found, in all my visits here, for people to be understanding, polite, and accommodating to my language restraints.

I fully support this resolution, because what it does is recognize that Burlington has two very major revenue streams from visitors --- college students and tourists. If Burlington businesses can be encouraged (that's the key -- there are no mandates here), to be as accommodating to visitors from the north as they tend to be to us, we will continue to see tourism remain strong, and for people to leave with good memories. That, in turn, will encourage repeat visits. The money dropped in Burlington from summer tourism is big, and we should all embrace it and do whatever we can to encourage it. That's all City Council is doing. Trying to put more money in the pockets of people who live and work in Burlington.

This resolution is a good story to follow, and there are many layers of reporting that could be done on it. Interviews with business owners and tourists, data on tourism dollars and how they trickle around in Burlington. I wish SDVT would serve its readers better by recognizing that we actually want more smart, informative stories and less snark.

Has Lauren Ober ever traveled to other countries? In Europe you often are given menues that are translated into 3 or 4 languages. I am shocked that 7 days would allow such an insulting article to be published. As someone of Quebecois heritage, I am outraged!!!

Wow, you guys are f**ked because this resolution actually passed. This is how it all starts and then the rights of anglophones will be denied. You just screwed your service industry. Say goodbye to loads of tax dollars (expect a tax increase shortly) that should be spent on improving English education since you are living in an English speaking country - NOT FRENCH SIGNAGE, instruction, and other unnecessary bullsh*t. And that is just the beginning. Wow, can't believe this passed. WOW, you guys...OMFG. Have you heard your economy is shite? And you are spending on this??? I just can't believe how stupid Americans are these days.

I have to say that as a bilingual Quebec Anglophone, I wish the Francophone Quebecois would extend their hand and serve me in English. It's seem's like a double standard where they expect to be served in their language, but won't try to speak English themselves. In a continent that is overwhelmingly Anglophone, only 40% of them can speak English! It's horrible, some countires such as the Netherlands have a bilingualism rate of 90% compared to Quebec. At the very least, this province could have bilingual signs that welcome our American neighbours at the border...

To "Tom"
It's probably worth noting that Quebec is officially bilingual. Yes, I know which language is primary...
POSTED BY: TOM | AUGUST 04, 2011 AT 03:32 PM
You obviously don't live in this dictatorship of a province (if a province can be a dictatorship..) because as an Anglophone, our rights have nicely and neatly been systematically removed and denied throughout the last 30-40 years.

Don't move here if your an Anglo. you will be smartly smacked and ignored...


Quebec is NOT officially bilingual; it is officially unilingual: French.

English has some rights constitutionally but successive Quebec governments have done their best to eliminate or minimize those rights. Mostly, Quebec has lost in court and the little rights anglos have are maintained...reluctantly by Quebec.

Of note: language legislation segregates all school children into two separate and distinct civil rights categories: those that have the freedom to choose between attending either French or English publicly funded schools and those that must attend ONLY French publicly funded schools. Alarmingly, this right is determined by who your parents are and what THEIR classification is...and this classification is then handed down, generation to generation, like was done under the old apartheid system of South Africa.

See chapters 2 and 5 of for documentation.

As a Montrealer having grown up on both sides of our famous cultural divide here, I can tell you that people from Quebec aren't asking or expecting to be served or addressed in French in Burlington or Plattsburgh or Boston or Cleveland or anywhere else in the United States - except maybe the Hollywood/Hallandale area of Florida, but I digress ;).

That being said, I cannot imagine why a smart businessperson in Burlington wouldn't want to do whatever they could reasonably do to cater to an increasing flow of potential customers who happen to speak French, whether encouraged by City Council or not. If Burlington City Council wants to support that further by adding French to public signage - all the better.

I'd have to agree with some, however, that it shouldn't be a high priority or high cost venture for you - there are certainly other more important issues to settle first. In the grand scheme of things, Quebekers will continue to come to Burlington and other places in the northeast as long as it makes sense for us.


To Tony Kondaks | August 27, 2011 at 04:15 PM,

You very convientely forgot to mention that the right to attend english school is given to anglophones whose one of the parents (or grand-parents, or grand-gand-parent...) attended english school.

It wasn't clear in your post ; just for the record : it is the historic english minority that has a special status and the special right to attend english school.

And it is true : Québec is officialy unilingual french.

Michel Patrice


I didn't "conveniently"leave antthing out; I provided references at the bottom of my post for anyone who wants greater detail.

What YOU conveviently left out is that, when polled, 60% of Quebec francophones want the right to choose to send their children to English public schools.

I'm impressed by all of the fact that burington do for the Quebecors. For example, at the airport all of the directives, menus, maps etc. are billingual. And more,Burington encourage some french people who wants to work in the english city. If a want to choose a city to learn my english, I probably go to live in burlington for the reason they are looking very friendly and understandable with french people.

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