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.
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
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
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
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.
Photos via Wikipedia.