Howard Galganov Has a Legitimate Case.
Howard Galganov has a legitimate case.
The self-proclaimed language rights activist has embarked on a campaign against the Ontario township of Russell’s bylaw that requires all businesses in the area to have bilingual signs in both French and English.
The rule was adopted after a series of incidents where Francophones of the township complained that local businesses, notably the governmentally-operated Beer Store, had english-only signs. Russell township is about equally French and English.
Mr. Galganov’s problem with the legislation is that, according to him, it limits his freedom of expression, a freedom protected by the Canadian Charter of Human Rights.
Not only does it deny him the right to put up signs in English only, he rightly points out that it denies area francophones the right to put up signs only in French, should they choose to do so.
The idea that commercial signs are a form of personal expression and therefore a protected form of speech is controversial, but it has nevertheless been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada during the various challenges to Québec’s sign law.
Howard Galganov has a perfectly legitimate case.
It’s not a very strong one, though. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that commercial signs are a protected form of speech, but it also said that they could be regulated. Québec’s amended sign law, for example, which allows English and other languages on signs as long as French is predominant, is perfectly constitutional.
It’s hard to see how mandatory bilingual signs would not be. As Ontario’s French-language services commissioner said: “As a constitutionalist, I am really curious to see what their arguments will be.”
We will all find out when he pleads his case in the courts. Mr. Galganov and his supporters will present their arguments and explain in what way their rights are being violated. The defenders of the bylaw, starting with township mayor Ken Hill, will explain why the law does not unfairly limit anybody’s rights. An impartial judge will decide.
Democracy. Rule of law. Justice. The system at it’s best.
Howard Galganov has a legitimate case. Unfortunately, that is not the case he is fighting.
Using the Russel township bylaw as a pretext, Howard Galganov is waging war against democracy and a group of individuals singled out because of their language: francophones.
Howard Galganov is not a resident of Russel township. He only rented a storefront there and became a member of the chamber of commerce on June 18th, several days after announcing he would challenge the bylaw in court and months after he started his campaign against it.
Howard Galganov does not believe the people of the township have the right to decide for themselves what laws meet their own community standards. Nor is he merely supporting local opponents of the law. He is forcing himself and his ideas into someone else’s family affair.
That, however, is a minor detail compared to the much darker side of his crusade.
Apart from the legal challenge to the bylaw, Howard Galganov is financing a vast public opinion campaign, which is is a perfectly legitimate thing to do.
As part of this campaign, Mr. Galganov is calling for a boycott of all French-owned businesses in the area.
Now, by all accounts, the bylaw is controversial in all parts of the township, including within the French-speaking community. The bylaw’s champion is mayor Ken Hill, an anglophone. The law was voted by the democratically elected representatives of the township, both French and English.
Yet, Howard Galganov asks his supporters to punish only the French-speaking business owners. Only those who speak French, regardless of the fact that they could individually be supporters or opponents of the bylaw. Regardless of the fact that they could be members of the chamber of commerce that opposes the bylaw.
Howard Galganov asks his supporters to ignore the actual language of the signs, to look only at the surname on it. According to him Raynald Godin of Godin’s Hardware should be punished for being a Godin, even is his sign is in English, French, Tagalog or any combination thereof.
A boycott of Russell township francophones in protest of a municipal bylaw is the same thing as boycotting Anglo-owned businesses in Montreal to protest the decline of French in Montreal regardless of how these individual businesses treat their francophone patrons. It is the same thing as boycotting all Jewish-owned businesses to protest Israël’s occupation of the west bank, regardless of these individual business-owners’ opinion, if any, on Middle-Eastern geopolitics.
This singling out of one group for blame, ostracizing and punishment
only the basis of their ethnic, linguistic or racial origin is
something very sinister that has a variety of names. Names Mr.
Galganov is very familiar with as he is very fond of claiming he is the
victim of such logic and activity.
Howard Galganov was contacted in the course of writing this post. His response was: “I usually never turn down interviews (French or English), but your articles have been unfair, dishonest and insulting. Therefore the answer is no.”