There is no such thing as the Québec Language Police

with 103 comments

When it comes to negative branding, opponents of Québec’s language legislation hit a home run when they coined the term Language Police to designate the governement bureaucrats charged with enforcing the French Language Charter. Probably the only thing that could do worse damage to your international public image than a Language Police is footage of your citizens hitting baby seals on the head with harpoons…

The nickname, however, was not even their own idea. The best the most clever Angryphone of them all, Mordecai Richler, could come up with was Tongue Trooper. It is Morley Safer of CBS’s 60 Minutes who is said to have been the first to use the term Language Police.

There is, of course, no such thing as a Language Police in Québec.

The general objective of Québec’s French Language Charter is to protect the right of every citizen of Québec to work and receive services and information in French in Québec, something that has often been problematic, especially in Montreal, even though French-speakers are the majority of the population.

To acheive that goal it made it mandatory that all businesses in Québec be able to serve their customers in French, both verbally and in writing, whether it be through menus, posters, telephone customer service, advertizing, on the internet or in person.

If a citizen felt his right to service in French was not honored, he could make a complaint to the Office de Protection de la Langue Française, the governement agency in charge of the Charter’s application. The agency would then send a agent to investigate if the complaint was justified, and if it was, to inform the business in question that there had been a complaint and assist him in correcting the situation.

If, and only if, the business in questions refused or failed to make the corrections the OQLF could forward the complaint to the Minister of Justice, who has the power to impose a fine.

In 2006-2007 there were 3873 complaints. Only 72 of those were eventually forwarded to the minister.

The OQLF agents are no more a police force than food inspectors or workplace safety agents, but Language Police is a powerful image and through endless repetition by less thorough reporters than Mr. Safer who couldn’t spell hyperbole, the idea that Québec has an actual Language Police has taken on a life all it’s own and otherwise informed visitors fully expect to see them patrolling the streets of Montreal in uniform.

The myth of the Language Police has hurt Québec and Montreal’s image, but it’s to late to do anything about it. The image is there and the name stuck.

In such situations the only thing left to do is embrace image. Québec could make the agents of the Office Québécois de la Langue Française actual constables of an actual Language Police, give them uniforms, badges, governement issue tape-measures and taser guns.

This change of terminology, however, will cause changes accross Canada as other pencil-pushing civil servants will also want to be called police officers. You see, cops earn more money and have way more luck with the ladies than white collar bureaucrats.

Employees of the CRTC, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission, will be become the Thought Police, to reflect their power to decide who has the right to broadcast, what they can broadcast, and how much they can charge for it. The bureaucrats in charge of monitoring the 35% of Canadian music radio stations are required to broadcast by law will be known as the Rock n’ Roll Police and those found guilty of not playing enough Bryan Adams will be sent to a jail in Newfoundland known as the Jailhouse Rock.

Workers at Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal who investigate complaints of discrimination against visible minorities and women in the workplace will be renamed the Race and Sex Police.

City zoning officials in Saskatoon, whose job includes inforcement of a city bylaw that legally requires residents of the Hughes Drive developement to use a minimum of four colors on the facade of their houses and that “the selected colors should match the range of Benjamin Moore “Historical Colors”, will be known as the Royal Canadian Color Police.

Soccer moms in Saskatoon risk heavy fines if they should fail to coordinate with their neighbours, but that is nothing compared to the plight of homeowners in Edmonton where the Veranda Police will patrols the streets of Spruce Village on the lookout for violators of the “covered porch” architectural guidelines.

Well, the decision whether or not to turn any little government employee into a police officer is one Alberta and Saskatchewan will have to make for itself.

As for Québec, the world already asumes we have a language police so there will be nothing lost in getting one. In fact, it would be a unique opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.

An actual Québec Language Police could play the role Mounties play in the rest of Canada. Language cops in crisp blue uniforms and funny hats could be posted arround Montreal and Québec, tourists would line up to be photographed with them and a paraphenelia deal could be struck with Disney Corporation.

Written by angryfrenchguy

August 5, 2008 at 9:43 am

103 Responses

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  1. Ohhh…Mon Dieu! I am liking da french very much but too much da cigarette and da pea soup eh….I play du hocke wit my baguette and work part time for kid parties as mime–help for me to get out of box….je ne sais pas… momee tell me I am bastard of Rene Levesque eh..Mon Dieu! Mabee true…I am rancid little ingrate puke too! Tres bien. Other times I escort for Anglos who do bad sex to me while make me say “English is only true language…french is for fags” Ohhh Mon Dieu! I dream one day I run with Rene Simard and Curious George…..


    February 26, 2010 at 3:17 am

  2. Justify all you want angry french guy, the language police are, well, a little more onerous than that. Even the term of tongue trooper is too soft for this political surveillance unit.

    What would happen if I speak timbucktoish on the streets of quebec? Nothing. What would happen if I speak english? Fined 6000 dollars. And that is only because it is not a criminal offence………yet

    the imported one

    June 3, 2010 at 8:18 pm

  3. AM said : «With respect to languages, some of the Nations mainly speak French (ex. Algonquins, Innu, Wabenaki), while others mainly English (ex. Inuit, Cree, Mohawk). I think though that there are even differences within the some of the Nations in that they’ll speak a different language in different settlements.»

    And that’s where you get lost again in canadan nonsense. In Canada, Natives lost their languages due to English systematic oppression. This did not happen in Québec It’s clear-cut on the Québec/Canada Western border : Québec side : People speak Angonkian and French as a second language, which is perfectly reasonable because French is our common language. On Canada (Ontario) side : People speak English with a few elders knowing Angonkian. They got assimilated. The mere idea that the Natives in Québec should have to learn English to speak with the same indigenous nation in Ontario because the English were more agressively assimilating them IS INSULTING TO NO END.

    The Algonquins, the Innus, the Inuits, Crees, etc of Québec kept their native languages. But through pressure from federal government and french inferiorisation the English have a talent for, some indigenous nations in Québec seek to assimilate to English.

    They have no special right to do that. Bill 101 explicitly state they have the right to protect, develop and use their native languages, and this helped to dynamize many villages and give people back some dignity. They can switch to French-only if they want to go back to the days of assimilation, but Québec dosen’t have to endorse further anglicisation. Anglicisation of the natives is not cultural enrichment.

    English is not a native language here. It is not dissapearing from the face of Earth and has no reason to get anymore protection than Spanish or Kiswahili in Québec.


    December 13, 2011 at 10:35 am

  4. Assimilation is when a group (a state or an ethnicity) can spontaneously adopt a different language or culture due to its political relevance, or to its perceived superiority. The fact that many nations mainly speak French is Assimilation. In my opinion, The French are actually worse than the English in terms of destroying Aboriginal rights. Aboriginal rights will be further eroded when the PQ government gets elected. Those rights were given as payment for the land you stand on and you should find out what natives think of the French before writing your completely bias commentary.


    September 3, 2012 at 9:26 am

  5. The French language is notably accepted in Quebec by everyone, the problem arises only when you disrespect the language of others. In terms of business if you want to advertise in all languages, (of course including french) it should be your choice. There is no disrespect to the french people on this matter.

    Bruce Barton

    December 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm

  6. What kind of idiot would complain to the OLF because the word “start” is not instead,”demarrer” on the photocopy machine? It has nothing to do with culture protection,they just want to use language to irritate ethnics.


    April 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm

  7. People who support these french laws are retards. Hope you’re happy that people are dying over here. That people who can’t speak french well enough have no money and no jobs, and NO HOPE. Thank you. Fuck the French. You have all been assholes to me so I’ll be assholes to you. I try to speak french but I’m just not good at it, but even when I try, you all glare at me like I’m the biggest moron in the world. Thanks fuckers. Hope you all rot in hell.


    June 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

  8. I live very close to the province of Quebec.Take my word for it. It should really be known to the world.just how uneducated,idiotic,pig headed,arrogant,egotistical idiots Quebecers really are.Spend some time there and you will know. The french have been their for a very short period of time and in their blind arrogance,think that they are entitled to their own country; Do us all a favor.stop inbreeding with your cousins and try to create some intelligent children.YOU ARE ALL RETARDED. The very sad part of this is that I was born french,now I am english by choice. Do any of you know what the average level of education is in Quebec? Keep your language,keep your province. Put up a fence,or a wall and please dont allow anyone in or out so that you stop contaminating the rest of Canada. I have friends from Europe and according to him you are hated even more by France. Good luck.Boner chance.


    June 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm

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    October 17, 2013 at 10:27 pm

  10. Québecautochtone: English is about as native here as French! What a dumb comment. And the English do need protection from French people who have been infringing on their rights since 1977! unfortunately, the French cant accept that they lost the war against the English oh so many years ago.. people need to learn to share and let people CHOOSE whatever language they want to speak… in schools and at work!


    December 2, 2013 at 10:56 pm

  11. 389 states or territories in 195 countries in have some kind of language policy, including kk-nada and most of its provinces…

    Canada Libre

    October 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm

  12. Québec has a law that protects the right of Anglophone communities to all state services – Health care, Education, Justice, Social programs, communications with the government, municipal services, etc. – in their language.

    Québec has a law that guarantee all the necessary provincial funding for services in English (funding which, in fact, is much larger than the weight of those communities among Québec population (18,9% of the Health ministry budget and 28, 5 % of the higher Education budget spent on services provided in English and institutions that operate in English for a proportion of 5,6% Anglophones)

    That law is Bill 101.

    You don’t have to believe me, just see for yourself the official text of law in your language :

    Canada Libre

    October 4, 2014 at 9:10 pm

  13. […] mea culpa, AFG: I did not assume there were actual Language Police guys with truncheons and measuring tapes (though as you admit, it’s a compelling image), and I’m happy to hear that less than 5% […]

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