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What should you do when the language police come calling?

If you are running a business — especially a retail outlet in the West Island — and you are visited by an inspector with the Office québécois de la langue français who is armed with an anonymous complaint that you are somehow breaking the province’s language laws, how should you react?

If you stand up and denounce the laws as absurd and abusive — like Harry Schick, the owner of a pastry shop and deli in Pointe Claire — you are heralded as a type of folk hero. If you go public with an explanation as to why you haven’t been able to comply with the laws but you are working on it — like David Lipper, the owner of a frozen yogurt outlet in Dollard des Ormeaux — you are supported but criticized for giving in and not taking a stand.

Or, does it matter? Is simply bringing these incidents to the public’s attention enough?

Lipper became the latest player in Quebec’s little language sitcom. Two weeks ago, he was visited by an inspector with the Office. Her mission was to verify a complaint that the frozen yogurt shop was using plastic spoons that had English-only slogans moulded into the stems.

According to Lipper, the inspector asked to see the spoon and was shown the spoons. But instead of simply verifying the allegations in the anonymous complaint and retreating back to the Office, she told Lipper that he could not use the utensils because the slogans were in English. Lipper’s response was to immediately pull the spoons from the store and replace them with plain white plastic spoons from the local Walmart.

Then last week, after staff at the store kept being asked what had happened to the colourful spoons, Lipper posted an explanation on the store’s Facebook page. He had no intention of fighting the Office. He was simply asking customers to be patient as he looked for a new spoon supplier, as the English-only spoons were supplied through the franchise head office in Los Angeles.

As on Menchie’s Facebook page, most people who have commented focus on the absurd and abusive nature of the Office’s presence. But a few have condemned Lipper.

For example, one person who commented on the story posted on this site said: “I think I am more angry at the owner for whimply backing down to bullying prejudice racism.”

Said another: This French dictatorship is something that we can put a stop to if we stop acting like snivelling cowards. Together we can make that all change. How? By fighting back.”

Yes, the business owners are on the front lines. But are they expected to be the only soldiers fighting this battle? If members of the Quebec community – anglophones, allophones and francophones – who believe that petty campaigns against the use of the word “pasta” or a little English on plastic spoons or an expression of welcome in multiple languages at a pastry shop somehow diminishes the Quebec culture as defined by the Parti Québécois, all stand up, perhaps this fight will bring about change.

The question then becomes: How can this effectively be accomplished?

Any suggestions?

It cannot simply be left to the merchants.

Brenda O’Farrell

58 comments

  1. By Pauline Hurtubise

    I fully agree with the message in this article. However I question whether the complaint was anonymous. I just filed a complaint regarding the use of English words at the Casino and I had to sign it.

    • You actually filed a complaint, and then came on an English site to boast about it? It’s people like you that are going to run this Province into the ground.

      • By Pauline Hurtubise

        You obviously didn’t get it. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Why should the quebec cash cow not have to conform to the law by not using English words.

      • By Jim in Montreal

        Eric, this HOLE thing is really making me ill, but again it is NOT the majority of Francophones, just a few A** holes looking for power?

    • Actually…. This is pure genius, and I find it hard to believe that people are criticizing this tactic. The Casino De Montreal is owned by Loto-Quebec (Government owned) – Will the OQLF (Quebec Government run) actually do something to impede the income of one of their subsidiaries? I highly doubt it, which once again shows how truly corrupt our Government really is. I also don’t see the OQLF banging on the SAQ’s (also Government owned) doors, where almost every bottle of alcohol has English on it without any translation into French. I think I’ll be filing a complaint against the Casino and the SAQ quite soon, I may even try and start a trend.

    • By elizabeth sharp

      You may have signed the document but that information is not revealed during the inspection; as a retailer, i’ve been there and it is horrible to be faced with an inspector. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. You have to smile, be polite and hope and pray you are not punished.

    • My question is; How far will it go?
      Why not just put a sign at the boader telling Americans
      “If you don’t speak french, don’t come to Quebec”
      Does anyone remember 1938 Germany?
      If you don’t… then you havn’t learned a thing!

    • By Oldsoftee

      I GET it, Pauline…and I salute your initiative. The OQLF goes full steam ahead after small business ownersè spoons and menus while casting a blind eye at colossal Loto Quebec. NO WAY!

  2. No wonder the West Island culture languishes!
    We waste so much time on this trivia.
    Afterall French is the language of Quebec. It is way past time to move on people!

    • By Tony Dee

      To be honest Andy, and with respect, I don’t know how you could say that. Do you know what a Totalitarian Society is? For those who do not, it’s when Government leaders take over ell aspects of society’s personal and public lives. This was established in 1920 by Fascist leader and dictator Musolini. Eventually dictatorship governments are rebeled hard against by the people, because you can only tell intelligent adults what to to , when and how for so long, then there is civil war. What a way to live a life. If we don’t fight back we are allowing ONLY the leaders to have freedom and riches and here in Quebec the ignorant french speaking red-necks don’t realize that this is all going to affect them too.

      Our new government is not supporting multi-culturalism at all, they are destroying it one rule at a time. Remember what I said about controling society’s movements, both private and public? All these little laws forcing us to wear seat-belts, not smoking in public places, which I understand all except for bars, all those things they are doing to chip away at our freedom of choice are not for the benefit of society, they are to weaken the masses and getting them used to their “don’t do this and don’t do that” regime that is no dofferent than parents controlling their children.

      I know that not wearing my seat-belt is not a good idea, etc., but I enjoyed the freedom of making that choce myself for over 40 years… and if you want to take a look backwards, anyone who’s been around in the 40′s to the late 70′s will tell you that they were the best era’s of our time. They were the most free, the most peaceful and everyone got along no matter the language. I went to school here with french and english students in classes on one side of the corridor and english on the other and we went to recess together and there was no problem. It’s our government and cows like Marois that have created the hatred and turmoil. Why? Because we let them. Let us use the media to start the fight and here your suggestions on how to rage this battle and those who say it’s time to move on, have already been brain-washed and if I’m going to fight for you rights and freedom, you better damn well change your thinking!!!

  3. By Linda Skelhorne

    Oh, it must’ve been a really bigger infraction….possibly the ON and OFF buttons weren’t covered? How dreadful you had to spend the night at a casino with a few English words you HAD to look at.
    I hope you lost your shirt and everything else you own that night!!!

  4. By Jan Chlumsky

    It is too bad, I have no business and am out of chance to do abything about this rrdiculous stuff. I thing some businessman should challenge the quebec governement up to the supreme court, because on the end it must be decided once and for all tha we in Quebec live under stupid dictatorian governement making such crazy laws which no court may agree with.

  5. By Joe Hinglish

    Let’s not forget that we tax-payers are funding this Office De La Harassment De Everything Hunglish Hunder De Sun… I am afraid fellow reasonable Canadians living in Quebec that when things get this stoopid – it is time to throw in the towel and get the heck out of that sinking ship.

  6. By tony nero

    the problem is based in our electoral system….we should grant bilingualism to riddings that desire it…isnt that what democracy is all about…the pq wrap themselves in the democratic cloack only when it suits them…in a true democracy a party who obtains 30% of the vote would not be able to impose their fascist ideals on the 70% of quebecers who are more tolerant…..fascist governments throughout history have caused more damage with less support from the public…lets wake up before its to late…dont say it can never happen here….lets support popular representation in the national assembly and see how this absurdity goes away….

  7. By VD Resident

    I would demand that the person who filed the complaint come forward. Otherwise, what proof do they have that someone complained? They could be making this crap up. No way in hell would I give in without demanding proof of complaint, verbally from the person who complained.

  8. By Cutie003

    Why are you filing a complaint about the Casino Pauline? If you’re doing it to prove this is all nonsense and want to overload these “language police” I agree with that action but if you’re doing it to cause more problems in this province over stupid racist, bigoted language laws, I’m surprised that your comment is in English.
    Either way, we must fight back against these language militants before they do any more damage to this society than has been done already. Bill 14 should be flushed down the toilet along with all these crazy language laws that are killing us. Put the 25M to health care or french language training for those that wish to take it. Idiots, the lot of them

  9. By Joan Brooks

    I am an English Quebecer – born here, and have stayed here all my life and I’m fed up with the French language police. In France they don’t insist on everything being in French! Why should an insignificant province like Quebec in a large English speaking country demand so much? We should not give in to them and their petty insistence that everything be in French! It was the English money that made this province prosperous and when the FLQ acted up, a lot of the English companies left when they should have stayed and fought for our rights as first-class citizens of an English country! It’s time to fight back, and I applaud the people on the West Island who stand up to those French bullies. As a tax payer, I think that my money goes to supporting these incessant and inconsequential forays into our lives by narrow-minded and inane people with a chip on their shoulders! I am a pensioner but I am willing to join any organized committee to oust these idiots who have nothing better to do than complain about something which is rightfully ours – our language!

    • “insignificant province, English speaking country, their petty insistence, English money made this province, French bullies, narrow-minded and inane people, oust these idiots”.

      Okay! We won’t appoint you as mediator in any future negotiations…

  10. The identity of the accuser should not be anonymous. Change the OLF procedure. Can MNA Geoff Kelley tell us if this is feasible?

  11. By Canadian Tax Payer

    Where the hell is our “representation” that we pay for by “taxation” ? Both Feds and Province take our money and laugh in our face while plunging the knife in our back

  12. By Z.Kisielew

    Language protection is perpetuated by Quebecois politicians in a ruse to be voted into power by the vastly uneducated population of Quebec as the metropolitan city is being extremely diverse and actually
    contributes majority of Quebec revenue while those “P.Q.” voters ( 47% don’t pay taxes) benefit from “employment” benefits. If you travel the wold , english is spoken everywhere and signs are usually in local and english. To note: India has 18 official languages. China 250 languages with different dialects. In the United States there are 245 languages,english by 80.3%, spanish and spanish creole by 62.3% at home.No country has a language police.Maybe because the citizens are not complacent/cowardly.
    Like religion you can speak any language at home or community but speak,read and write only one major language nationally to avoid problems you read about daily and the high cost that comes with it.

  13. It is always so funny to see the Anglo-Québécois complaining. They speak English everywhere, they have services in English from the governments and they always controlled their schools. The funny point of view of the Anglo-Québécois and of the English press is : To maintain a culture and to respect a minority, signs are more important than schools.

    Us, the French-Canadians out of Québec we don’t put commercial bilingual signs in Moncton or Sudbury otherwise the right wing English won’t come in our stores and would call us French maniac. In the majority of the English (I don’t say Canadian) provinces, we have no services in French from our governments. It could be hard to get services in French even from the Federal. As the Americans, the English-Canadians are deeply and proudly unilingual. But the most important, we still fight for our schools.

    All of that showing that Canada is not also our country, that many right wing English are separatists. All of that under the cover up of the English press, busy they are talking about pasta. Despite all of that : Vive le Canada.

  14. By Bryan K.

    Until the PQ are recognized for what they are, xenophobes, we will never have any peace in the province. As a multicultural country Canada has always been open to new cultures, Quebec on the other hand, wants none of it. And, if you are from a different culture, you must stop and fit in the “standard” of a Quebecker.

    I say we fight back, demand services in english everywhere we go, hospitals, shops, even from the garbage man/sanitary engineer.

    Promote your culture, your religion, don’t let the xenophobic PQ get in the way.

  15. It is always so funny to see the Anglo-Québécois complaining. They speak English everywhere, they have services in English from the governments and they always controlled their schools. The funny point of view of the Anglo-Québécois and of the English press is : To maintain a culture and to respect a minority, signs are more important than schools.
    Us, the French-Canadians out of Québec we don’t put commercial bilingual signs in Moncton or Sudbury otherwise the right wing English won’t come in our stores and would call us French maniac. In the majority of the English (I don’t say Canadian) provinces, we have no services in French from our governments. It could be hard to get services in French even from the Federal. As the Americans, the English-Canadians are deeply and proudly unilingual. But the most important, we still fight for our schools.
    All of that showing that Canada is not also our country, that many right wing English are separatists. All of that under the cover up of the English press, busy they are talking about pasta. Despite all of that : Vive le Canada.

  16. By Gary Simard

    As a former English Quebecer – I was transferred, I did not leave by choice – I can honestly say I would NEVER go back to the city I love. Only because of this on-going pettiness. It is sad. It is such a relief not to have to deal with it anymore. And to Pauline Hurtubise I can only say that you are a part of this. If you will not be accomodating to your fellow citizens, at least try to think about the US tourists who visit the casino. They bring $$$ to the Quebec economy. Would you rather they feel so unwelcome in Quebec that they visit somehere else instead???

    • By Pauline Hurtubise

      Gary – you didn’t get it either. I filed because the Casino is a Quebec cash cow and the language police aren’t going to go after their own – that’s the injustice of it.

  17. By Victor Craig

    I am tired of hearing English-speaking Quebec residents complain about their constant persecution from the so-called language police or certain individuals who somehow think that they have the right and the duty to tell us that we do not have the right to speak English here in Quebec under any circumstances.

    Stop complaining. FIGHT!!!!!

    What we have here is a Human Rights and Civil Rights issue. No law, person or entity on this planet has the right to tell us or anyone that we cannot express ourselves in the language of our choice, whether it is English, Chinese, Russian, Romanian or Swahili.

    Do not expect either of the two political parties that oppose the PQ to stand up for and protect us. We must organnize our own political party and fight for ourselves.

    The rest of the world is laughing at this province for its ridiculous practices
    Let us draw a line in the sand and put an end to this embarrassing language nonsense

    If anyone reading this message agrees with me, please respond.

    • By Cutie003

      I agree with you Victor. These language militants are ruining our province and our country and we look like country bumpkins to everyone in the world with the stupid language police. I do wish we had a federalist provincial party that would stand up to these guys and tell them where to get off. Harper could get off his ass and do the same. Change the damn constitution if need be but make all this shit stop!

      • By Jim in Montreal

        It’s a pity that I speak 4 languages, English, French, Spanish and German. I go to Paris(France) a few times a year; and they speak to me in English, and I reply in French…….tells you something about how they view the world and are very comfortable and happy that they have more than one language to use. They are also surrounded by a sea of languages, and are PROUD to speak other languages. The politics in Quebec are a joke…let them go separate, as their only egress from Quebec is through the Artic ocean! Grow a pair!! Cutie003 I couldn’t agree with you more!

    • By Pauline Hurtubise

      I agree wholeheartedly. I did my little bit by filing a complaint against the casino for their use of English words – it’s not because they’re one of the government’s cash cows that they shouldn’t have to follow the rules.

  18. By Victor Craig

    I am tired of hearing English-speaking Quebec residents complain about their constant persecution from the so-called language police or certain individuals who somehow think that they have the right and the duty to tell us that we do not have the right to speak English here in Quebec under any circumstances.

    Stop complaining. FIGHT!!!!!

    What we have here is a Human Rights and Civil Rights issue. No law, person or entity on this planet has the right to tell us or anyone that we cannot express ourselves in the language of our choice, whether it is English, Chinese, Russian, Romanian or Swahili.

    Do not expect either of the two political parties that oppose the PQ to stand up for and protect us. We must organnize our own political party and fight for ourselves.

    The rest of the world is laughing at this province for its ridiculous practices
    Let us draw a line in the sand and put an end to this embarrassing language nonsense

    If anyone reading this message agrees with me, please respond.

  19. I think it would be a good idea that Merchants have a thorough knowledge of the Canadian constitution concerning our rights etc. I read the other day that we are allowed to have unilingual language on certain things ! especially on items that were NOT produced in Quebec ! That “Spoon” is a classic example . Items that are “Etched” on metal or “Molded ” on Plastic etc.. are OKAY. Any conversations with the OQLF should be conducted on the street, preferably “In the Gutter” !

  20. What I’ll never understand is why is it ok for all Halal counters at supermarkets to have arab writing on their packaging and on Chinese restaurants to have Chinese writing or Greek establishments to have Greek writing but English is never ok anywhere!

    • By usa eddy

      Possibly because english is a threat and the others are not? Or maybe the other language users don’t know the law? who knows?

  21. By Le Québécois

    “Why should an insignificant province like Quebec in a large English speaking country demand so much?”

    That attitude is exactly why, unlike France, we need strong language laws in Quebec, and is also a strong argument for independance.

    • Independence ? its long overdue . How about Tomorrow ? But … Not the whole of Quebec . Some off US want to be left in peace on our patch as well .

      • By Cutie003

        I’m with you Ann – go your way with the areas that vote to leave – plenty of us will vote to stay – off you go kiddies!

  22. Look at the number of comments on this article, then go click on an article about corruption in city hall, or that poor kid Fredy Villanueva that was murdered by a police officer over 5 years ago with no concequences or results yet, or look at many of the other important issues we face as a community. NONE are getting the attention they deserve yet this stupid topic has hundred if not thousands of “followers” on social media sites. That alone should be a sign that the majority of people that pay attention to the news are too scared to think about their city being overrun by the mafia, they’d rather waste time discussing the language of a damn spoon.

    Keep avoiding the real issues that could cost you your life or your money and you’ll find out just how stupid you looked after all this facebook / twitter BS fades away because you’ll actually be able to go back and look at the pointless stuff posted on your pointless online wall while the real world passed you by unnoticed.

    1 billion people may be brainwashed enough to forget about reality and think it’s cool to post your status on the web and rally up for pretentious causes but there’s 6 more billion looking at those facebookers and wondering how much more stupid they could look. We call those social junkies “sheepple” because they baaah like sheep yet still follow the rest of the herd no matter where they are lead… just so you know.

  23. I think it would help if merchants, along with everyone else, were better informed of their rights when confronted with a language cop. This could range from what is permitted/prohibited by provincial law, all the way up to what rights exist on the federal and international levels.

    Pauline, I am flabbergasted by how many people missed your point in complaining about casino signage. I also think you’re on to something. If the government is turning a blind eye to places like the casino for obvious financial gain (foreign tourists’ money), they should be called to account and forced to obey their own laws, even where it hurts financially. Private businesses often have to go to great expense to comply with bill 101. It’s time for the government to do the same. Let’s find all the ways that the language laws are contravened by the government itself and file complaints and force them to comply with their own ridiculous laws.

  24. “That attitude is exactly why, unlike France, we need strong language laws in Quebec, and is also a strong argument for independence”

    So Le Québécois what exactly would this change? Would Quebec suddenly be removed from the “sea of English” that surrounds it? What about all the English-speaking Quebeckers who live here, will they suddenly and magically become “francophones”? What measures would an independent Quebec put into place that will make it more French than it is now, deport non-French speaking people?

  25. By chinchapolo

    A pool of money with a pool of dedicated lawyers has to be put in place and ready to fight the language laws and the OGLF. All complaints filed against any merchant would be looked at and studied for a ready defence. This pool of resources should come from all interested parties who believe in changing and defending our rights. A single merchant does not have the resources to fight a government agency.

  26. By David Keenan

    I must admit i cannot understand how so many have misunderstood what Pauline was saying.
    To live in Quebec yes it is important to be able to speak French as the majority, at this time, of the population are French speaking so it makes sense to be able to speak in French. It is also a great benefit to be able to speak French as well as English for travel, business etc world wide, the more you know the better it can be. However to Pwopwo yuo miss the whole point totally, it is the same for Francophones. Learning knowing english is GOOD for all francophones also. English IS the world language for busines or travel. It does not hurt francophones by learning the language and it will not destroy the French language despite the 150 years of lies that francophones have been told it would do if Quebec did not seperate (note that since the complaints have begun over 150 years ago) and become an independent nation, french woudl disappear within 10 years of each proclamation, it still is strong and vibrant. But “outlawing” English is just plain dumb given world reality today. And sorry but not sure where you go but I know and have been to/seen etc French alive and being used a lot in Moncton, norhtern new Brunswick, many parts of Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and if you come anywhere near Ottawa, you will see what you have said is total BS. yet another myth perpetuated by those franophone elites who want only power and control over a hidden away populace, not unlike radical islam.

  27. I am a returning Montrealer after 30 years living abroad I was shocked to see the demise of this province which actively imprisons francophones in complete ignorance …like the Duplessis Orphan scandal at the hands of those who proclaim to be preserving quebecois culture. If all else fails speak in tongue write in gibberish on second thought maybe not because this is a modern day witch hunt and you are likely to be burnt at the stake,

  28. By AngloPhony

    Websites should not be allowed to have signs in English either.
    The Gazette is an english word and should be translated to Le Gazette.
    And the word Hockey sounds way too Inglish. It should be banned also.
    Mein Kampf!!!

    • By usa eddy

      Gazette is not an english word. In fact, the gazette was not an english newspaper until english money bought it and CHANGED THE LANGUAGE!!!

  29. P.M. Harper needs to address the violation of civil liberties and freedom of speech.
    Canada can’t even control Quebec with its fascist laws against the English.

  30. What a shame. Such a beautiful once dynamic province is spending tax payers money on such stupidities.
    When I studied in Quebec (1967) the Francophones were bilingual. We, the dumb Anglophones were not so bilingual although we did try. Montreal was the financial capital of Canada – a vibrant, stimulating wonderful city to live, study and work. It was a true melting pot for many races and creeds. French, German, Spanish, Italian, English, Irish, Scottish, Norwegian Swedish and Indian – all of which were represented in my small west island school called Dorval High.
    Being bilingual was an enrichment to the whole society which made Quebec stand out from the rest of Canada as being unique and therefore an interesting place to visit.
    The result of extreme political movements has been that Quebec is becoming a unilingual police state. Montreal has become a provincial city bogged down in political confrontation, where the masses have been and are being brainwashed from kindergarten. The only important thing to these so called politicians and still minority of extremists is that the province of Quebec becomes a unilingual French island in the middle of North America. They do not care about the future generations or even the present generations. They do not care about the economy, health care or education.
    They only seem to care about “W.C.”and “Pasta”. They do not want English and French to coexist in harmony. What has happened to free speech and free enterprise?

    They are impoverishing the population of a province which was once the richest in economy and culture. English and French can complement each other without political interference. English and French together make for a richer community.
    What a shame that so much has been lost by so many because of a few idiot extremists.

    I was just on a visit to Canada with my family and, of course visited Quebec city – menus only in French, Montreal – infrastructure crumbling and Toronto – vibrant, cosmopolitan refreshing-
    When will the Quebecers realize that their politics are not working but are sentencing them and their children to an uncertain future of poverty but as long as you say poverty in French I guess it will be ok. – So sad.

    Chris McCormack
    Still Proud to be a Canadian

  31. By Daniel Dubya Palladini

    By Pauline Hurtubise On June 26, 2013 at 9:32 am
    “I fully agree with the message in this article. However I question whether the complaint was anonymous. I just filed a complaint regarding the use of English words at the Casino and I had to sign it.”

    Many of you did not ‘get it’ – the intent of her complaint. Hope you do understand the following.

    The Montreal Canadiens Hockey Club – an employer that must abide by and follow the same rules of all employers in Quebec – right?

    From my box seat behind the players bench – why do I have to listen to the boss (read coach) address his employees (read hockey players) in English. This is in violation of the rules as per the language police. I filed an anonymous complaint but it was rejected by the language police.

    I no longer live in Quebec (just over the border) so I am unable to file a complaint.

    If you doubt my comment just walk behind the players bench and hear for yourself. Even French players speak to each other in English on the bench.

    Anyone prepared to follow the example of Pauline and put the language police to the test – as Pauline was trying to do.

    130709

  32. By James Lessard

    Hi from Saint Paul Minnesota. What Quebec has and wants to maintain is the French language. No doubt about it-have been in Montreal-some English but mostly French and Quebec-this area if you don’t know French good luck. The road signs are also posted in French which can challenge some people.

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