Burlington City Council says 'Oui' to French effort

Joel Banner Baird - Burlington Free Press 9 August 2011


With a resounding “oui,” Burlington City Council voted unanimously Monday night to bring more French language to the Queen City.

The nonbinding resolution cites Quebec’s immense economic contribution to the region — and Vermonters’ deep French heritage — as an impetus to boost language instruction, and to develop more bilingual signs, menus and maps.

Councilor Norm Blais, D-Ward 6, who sponsored the bill, said the measure might reverse the region’s unfortunate trend of distancing French-Americans away from their northern roots.

Blais, for whom French was a first language, said his command of his native tongue has faded considerably over the decades.

Council President Bill Keogh, D-Ward 5, presented Blais with a beginner’s instruction book after the vote.

After the meeting, Blais said he looked forward to more substantial, concrete gestures.

Efforts to build cultural ties have been under way for decades. Burlington resident Steven Norman, who helped start an informal French conversation group in the area 17 years ago, said last week he believes momentum and enthusiasm are building.

Earlier this year, Burlington celebrated its relationship with French speakers at a friendship ceremony at City Hall that included a flag raising.

Read the City Council Resolution