The city of Montreal is second only to Paris in its number of French speakers. But critics warn the policy, and its enforcement, are scaring away potentially new businesses as well as old ones.
A growing number of small business owners in Montreal are urging for the nearly 40-year-old “language law,” promoting French over English, to be scrapped.
CCTV America’s Roee Ruttenberg reports from Montreal.
The Office Québécois de la Langue Française (OQLF) often dubbed ‘the language police,’ is the provincial government’s agency tasked with promoting and protecting the French language in accordance with Quebec law. The agency said it receives more than 3,000 complaints each year.
“People see signage or ads only in English, and they say ‘Oh, it should be also in French,’ so we go there, and talk to the people,” said Jean-Pierre Le Blanc from Quebec Office for the French Language. “And often the matter is settled in cooperation with the businesses.”
Earlier this month, when a popular American eatery, The Halal Guys, opened its first Canadian franchise in Montreal and put up an English-only ‘Coming Soon’ sign provided by its headquarters, it had to comply with the language norm and reprint the menu, stickers bags and cups in French also.
Non-compliance fines can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. The OQLF said this year the number of fines has actually gone down. But it’s not because the agency has become complacent. Some would say that it’s because the stores just want to have peace and so comply with the law.
Some also argue that the whole approach needs to be modernized.