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Aboriginal word on stop signs in Kamloops stopped by B.C. legislation

A proposal by a councillor in Kamloops, B.C., 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 the word estil, which means stop in Secwepemc, on stop signs to acknowledge the city's aboriginal population and history.

Bilingual signs already exist on the Thompson Rivers University campus and on the Tk'emlups Indian Reserve bordering the city.

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However, in a report to council this week, traffic engineer Elnaz Ansari said Kamloops 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 said another concern is "taking risk management too far."

At one point during a council meeting on Tuesday, she held up an iPad displaying a bilingual stop sign and asked fellow councillors if they would know how to respond while driving.

Cavers argued that 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.

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

Coun. Ken Christian suggested 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, saying council should do something "to honour our Tk'emlups neighbours."

Only Cavers and Coun. Tina Lange voted to discuss the signs when the two councils meet this spring. (Kamloops This Week)

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