Cavers’ bilingual proposal in Kamloops hits the estíl sign

A proposal by a Kamloops councillor to add the Secwepemc language to some of the city’s traffic signs has been stopped in its tracks

Andrea Klassen – Kamloops This Week

A proposal by a Kamloops councillor to add the Secwepemc language to some of the city’s traffic signs has been stopped in its tracks by provincial legislation.

Coun. Donovan Cavers came up with the idea of adding ‘estil,’ the Secwepemc word for ‘stop,’ on the city’s stop signs to acknowledge Kamloops’ aboriginal population and history.

The practice of bilingual signs is already in place on the Thompson Rivers University campus and on the Tk’emlups Indian Reserve bordering the city.

However, in a report to council this week, traffic engineer Elnaz Ansari said the city is not permitted to add other languages or symbols to the signs due to provincial Motor Vehicle Act regulations.

Ansari also expressed concern regarding the safety of making stop signs bilingual.

“From a risk-management perspective, an additional language should not be added to stop signs, even if it would not be contrary to the regulations, given that changing them could add confusion to motorists and potentially cause more risk,” she wrote.

Cavers feels that second concern is “taking risk management too far,” at one point during Tuesday’s (Jan. 20) council meeting holding up an iPad displaying a bilingual stop sign and asking fellow councillors if they would know how to respond while driving.

Cavers also read aloud several online comments posted in response to a CBC story about the stop-sign debate, which attracted the attention of media on the Lower Mainland over the weekend.

The comments were generally critical of the province’s rules and city staffs’ recommendation to nix the bilingual signs.

Cavers argued giving up on the stop signs will paint the city in a negative light.

“There’ll be a lot of people saying, ‘Well, that speaks volumes about the City of Kamloops,” he said.

Cavers’ pitch to take the issue to a community-to-community forum the city holds regularly with the Tk’emlups council was ultimately unsuccessful, with several councillors preferring to focus on ways of promoting aboriginal heritage that don’t contravene provincial rules.

Coun. Ken Christian would like to see the city discuss projects similar to those at Kamloops Airport, which has displays explaining historical First Nations practices, or promoting local art.

“I think the notion of just simply dotting the city with that particular phrase is not doing service to what is a deeper and more meaningful conversation we need to have,” he said.

Coun. Arjun Singh agreed, arguing the stop-sign issue was bogging down debate.

“Right now we’re starting to get mired,” he said.

“And, whatever CBC Vancouver said on Facebook, I don’t care.

“I really care about us doing something for our community to honour our Tk’emlups neighbours.”


Only Cavers and Coun. Tina Lange voted to discuss the signs when the two councils meet this spring.