French-only highway signs to be replaced with pictograms

It's not the change they were asking for, but English language activists are calling it a victory.

Transport Minister André Fortin told CJAD 800s Aaron Rand that Transport Quebec is now in the process of changing French-only highway signs to pictograms in order to ensure they are understood by everyone using the province's roads.

Fortin said the decision was the direct result of a petition created by Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss and Cote St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac.

"When about 7,000 people voice their opinion through a petition it certainly does draw the attention of the government," Fortin said.

The Transport Minister said some of the signs that were specifically mentioned in the petition have already been changed, including warnings for uneven pavement and the thaw following the winter season. 

Others, such as warnings for lanes blocked due to an accident or a risk of hydroplaning are in the course of being replaced.

"For some others pictograms are currently being developed so that as many people as possible understand the signs on that road," Fortin said.

While many wanted the government to include English on the signs, such a move would have violated the province's language laws. The Charter of the French Language permits the use of both French and English on traffic signs but only when no symbol or pictogram exists.

But in the eyes of the Transport Minister the current solution is better because a picture is worth a thousand words, in any language.

"Pictograms are understood by Francophones, Anglophones, people who speak just about any language, tourists that visit us also," Fortin said.

Some of changes will have to wait a little longer than others. Fortin said many of the electronic message boards setup on the side of road or overhead of a highway are "first-generation" message boards and don't support the use of pictograms.

"Now as we're switching over to second-generation message boards, so the new technology message boards, we're able to use the pictograms for those as well."