HALIFAX: English and French stop signs will be going up in some Nova Scotian communities this summer.
In a press release issued earlier this month, the province said it will begin putting up bilingual stop signs on provincial roads in some Acadian communities.
In 2019, the province said a group of young Acadian students from Clare met with government representatives including Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson, as part of their project to introduce bilingual stop signs in the Municipality of Clare.
“It was part of a civics course they had, and I guess they took it right up to the top and got four ministers involved,” Mark Bannerman, Executive Director of the Office of Acadian Affairs and Francophonie, recalled. “The request itself actually prompted an even larger change because the students were looking for changes in Clare but changing a regulation, particularly a regulation for stop signs, or any kind of regulated sign; you just can’t do it for a specific area, you have to do it for the province in its entirety.”
As a result, Bannerman said a modification was made to traffic sign regulations under the Motor Vehicle Act permitting any municipality to install bilingual stop signs.
“This regulation change applies to both municipal and provincial roads and the change is enabling so it doesn’t force anyone to do it but municipalities may now install English and French bilingual stop signs on roads under municipal jurisdiction, at their own expense,” Bannerman explained.
For stop signs on provincial roads, Bannerman said the application process is open to any community in Nova Scotia that can demonstrate the importance of Acadian culture and history to its social, linguistic and cultural identity.
“We expect the interest in bilingual stop signs to be the strongest within our Acadian communities, and certainly, if a non-Acadian community comes forward and requests a bilingual sign, the Office of Acadian Affairs would work with them to understand the nature of the request,” Bannerman noted.
Late last month Richmond Municipal Council reviewed correspondence from Acadian Affairs Minister Lena Metlege Diab who wrote that Richmond County was identified as an Acadian community, and the office wanted to reach out to council to gauge the level of interest.
Council approved a motion to reply that the municipality would be interested in participating.
Bannerman said the office is currently finalizing the application form, which will be complete this week and will be available in both official languages.
The application process is “fairly simplistic,” according to Bannerman in that interested communities must submit their application along with a letter of support from their municipality. Once it arrives at the Office of Acadian Affairs, it is reviewed, then the applicant is consulted to verify the information, and if approved, the office submits the recommendation to the Department of Transportation and Active Transit to install the sign.
“The Office of Acadian Affairs will fund the cost of those signs, on provincial roads,” he noted.
The government said it is consulting with communities and those that have a landmark or historical site with significant social, linguistic and cultural interest to the Acadian community.
This regulation change mirrors other francophone communities in Canada, including Manitoba and Ontario, where bilingual stop signs have been introduced to support, reflect and celebrate francophone language and culture, the province noted.
“We’re not doing anything that’s completely against the grain,” Bannerman said.
The new signs will be installed ahead of Congrès Mondial Acadien, an international gathering held in Southwest Nova Scotia that showcases the culture of Acadian communities, in 2024
“For the students and generations to come, this initiative is bigger than just stop signs. I think it’s a very symbolic initiative that will help strengthen and promote the Acadian identity, the culture and the French language in our province,” Bannerman added. “This is a really exciting project and initiative.”