A town council proposal to pass a new bylaw that would make bilingual signs mandatory in Russell Township is making tensions flare.

Russell Township Mayor Ken Hill says the debate has taken on new life and is no longer about bilingual signs. 

"We've watched this sort of balloon get blown up in the last two or three weeks and the real target of the topic being pushed off into other topics about French, English, language debates, bilingualism," said Hill.

Despite the uproar, bilingualism is not a new issue for residents living in the township, located 20 minutes east of Ottawa.

In November 2007, police were called in after a worker was allegedly harassed during a language rights demonstration in front of a local beer store.

The worker's mother says the bilingualism debate is having a ripple effect throughout the community.

"Besides being the right of businesses to advertise in whatever language that they feel they should, it's also breaking up our communities," said Beth Trudeau.

Local store owner Elizabeth Munro agrees.

"It is about language, not just business ... I think it's hard to separate them," she said.

But French rights advocate Marc Ryan says it's the hatred of a few that is hurting a community that is equally Anglophone and Francophone.

"It takes time for emotions to calm down and for rational arguments to come forward," Ryan told CTV News.

A town meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday to discuss the bilingual sign proposal.

If residents give the new bylaw the go ahead, it would have to pass three readings before becoming law - a process that likely won't happen until April.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua