AngryFrenchGuy

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. Quebec independantist movement is probably (if I knew a little more about world history I would say certainly) the most pacific separatist movement to appear on the surface of the earth. How dare you state that “our” thinking is the reason why people in the world fight and kill each other?!

    Really????

    -Fire bombings second cup and other places in 1990’s
    -Firebombing churches 1990’s
    – murdering, kidnapping bombs in mailboxes 1960-70
    -threats in Westmount in the 1990’s that patriots would throw hammers off of rooftops of Canadians, this made world press
    – Fire bombing homes of Quebec citizanes that peacefully wanted partition of Quebec or Englsih in signs as the law allowed, reports on all major tv stations.

    -Asking the Quebec portion of the Canadian army to defect on referendum night?? You think this would have been peacefull???

    I can go on and on.

    Yeah right!!!

    the only reason why Quebecois are not up in arms is becuase YOU CONTROL CANADA AND HAVE EVERYHTING. dUHHHHHH.

    Your people have all the well paying civil service jobs in the country. All the top positions. And Quebec feeds off all the provinces while quebec takes it easy.

    That’s why it’s so peacefull. Beacase there really ins’t nothing to complain about. No oppression. Just myths.

    It’s time you jumped to the other side you know i am right all you got is a stupid picture on your website of a guy in the 1960’s who is been taken by the police. Big deal.

    Angryphone

    August 8, 2008 at 12:41 pm

  2. When in rome do as rome. I agree. When in Canada that still includes Quebec learn both languages. English and French or at least try.

    Angryphone

    August 8, 2008 at 12:45 pm

  3. one thing that keeps the language laws going is that one can snitch on his neighbour and stay anonymous. Snitching is a great little Quebecois trait that is very odious. No live an let live in this province. Words like Hello and Welcome invite the wrath of an ignorant populace who don’t understand how petty they have become. I hope one day the shoe will be on the other foot. Its a testament to small mindedness and a failure to see the larger picture.

    Chuck

    August 8, 2008 at 1:48 pm

  4. AFG i suggest you take a trip to Toronto. It’s what Montreal could have been and was. I think every separatist should take a trip there and a take a moment to suck it all in. It’s sad. Who cares about stupid language debate when you don;t have a decent job or shitty services

    Toronto basically is a result of the language debate and separation debate for 30 -40 years in Quebec. They want Quebeckers to debate and argue they are banking in the nationalist agenda to not try and live as one. Every time Quebcekrs argue another development is created another business opens up.

    But through the nationalist lenses it is perceived as les maudits Anglias have taken all our money. and oppress us. the fact is the nationalist have done it to themselves and they need someone to blame to feel better.

    Angryphone

    August 8, 2008 at 2:14 pm

  5. Hear are some racist names the nationalists have given the people of Quebec

    Instead of calling English-speaking Quebeckers, English-speaking Quebeckers they are called Angryphones and anglophones, note no geographical connection to Quebec, you bet that was done on purpose

    Instead of calling new immigrants new Quebeckers they use racist language words like allophone, which translates from Greek
    “the others” Note no territorial connection to Quebec.

    And what do french-Quebeckers call themselves pure laine, translation please….pure wool,

    No racism there and you wonder why we call them language police

    Shame on you

    Angryphone

    August 8, 2008 at 2:20 pm

  6. Hey Angryphone

    “It was the language state troopers who went in a confiscated the illegal Kosher food becuase the packaging was only in English in an 90% English neighbourhood just on religious week!!!!”

    Maybe you could explain this to me. Why do you consider Jews different than other people? Why should the rules be different for them? Are they not just regular citizens as the rest of us?

    And what about the French-speaking Jews of Montreal? Are they not allowed to have information in their language like the other citizens? What if some French-speaking kid had eaten a kosher peanut butter cookie by mistake because he couldn’t read the label, had an allergic reaction and died? Would that justify me in blaming that on hysterical radicals like you?

    angryfrenchguy

    August 8, 2008 at 2:32 pm

  7. Angryphone, is it by self-hatred or masochism that you name yourself after an expression you find racist?

    nepali

    August 8, 2008 at 2:55 pm

  8. As for Nepali , I am named after what my Quebec slave master call me. I angryphone

    As for you AFG it’s time you stepped on the right side of the tracks. Free yourself and you shall be free. It feels good being on the right side and not defending the evil Quebec regime. It feels like Luke did in the first 3 Star wars movies

    I know lots of French Jews and most of them speak speak English. You know why AFG????? Becuase they were not allowed to go to French Catholic schools. Yes, French immigrants were not allowed into French school, look it up. You know why AFG becuase they were Jews and nationalists didn’t like JEWS. But the nationalists were oppressed right? You can see it on your website just look at the picture on top, poor babies. .

    French Jews can read English, shock!!! Plus I never thought you needed instructions and a mannual on how to eat a Matza.

    Again they were not the ones complaining it was the Quebec nationalists who did the confiscating.

    And last freedom of religion, look it up. Perhaps the new Quebec empire’s constitution will not allow for freedom of religion becuase only the Catholics will be saved? Is that what Jesus said?

    Angryphone

    August 8, 2008 at 3:55 pm

  9. Maybe you could explain this to me. Why do you consider Jews different than other people? Why should the rules be different for them? Are they not just regular citizens as the rest of us?

    Yes I can explain this to you, it’s called getting along….treating people with respect. Love your brother. Is an English Matza going to hurt anyone , nope…..Common sense

    Angryphone

    August 8, 2008 at 3:58 pm

  10. Eric: “It would be nice for people to have actual proof of things rather than assuming they know the soul of each and every person who makes a complaint.

    I went to a restaurant once with a group and one of our group was handed an English menu by a francophone waitress. If she would have made a complaint, would it have been racist or about targetting minorities?”

    If only I would have clarified my statement with something like “That’s not to say that all complaints are the result of racism”.

    I think we’re talking about the same institution. You see it as a means of defending your language. I see it as a system that has the potential to give credibility to petty, vindictive, even racist people. It can be both things, it just appears that you believe the latter is an acceptable price to pay for the former, I don’t.

    RoryBellows

    August 8, 2008 at 8:33 pm

  11. About a month ago, Gilles Rheaume, who for some inexplicable reason felt his concious was so clear that he could accuse others of hate, filed a complaint with some Ontario human rights body over Howard Galganov’s call for a boycott of french-owned business’.

    On Rheaume’s own site, he has a list of business’ that he encourages his readers to boycott. Among them, were a couple that he claimed had english-only websites. I decided to check them out and discovered they had bilingual websites. So maybe they since translated them, and he’s still calling for a boycott, that’s not really where I’m going.

    So, what makes Rheaume feel he can get away with accusing someone else of hate? He has the charter to fall back on. He can hold it up and say “see, my views are backed up by the government of Quebec, I’m legitimate.”

    I’m not denying the difference between boycotting all french stores and boycotting some english stores who meet certain criteria. What I’m trying to point out is the hypocrisy that allows one of these people to be villyfied, while the other is seen as legitimate, despite both having basically the same sentiment. That, to me is scary.

    RoryBellows

    August 8, 2008 at 8:47 pm

  12. “The whole argument that Amerindians should have the right to speak their language holds no water. It is merely a weak punch from angryphones who want to say, “Hey, you were not the first linguistic group here, so if you don’t respect them, why should we respect you?”

    Can someone explain to me why this argument “holds no water”. Why should an English-speaking Amerindian not have the same rights (with respect to working and obtaining services in English) as his French speaking neighbours?

    AM

    August 9, 2008 at 7:57 am

  13. The problem with you, Angryphone, is that you will do anything, say anything, to not speak French in Québec. When in West Montreal, do as the West Montréalers? The only reason you would do that is because you speak English already and can’t be bothered to respect the majority’s language. Well, when in Petite Italie, why not speak Italian? I’ve heard that language on the streets a lot in that neighborhood in Montréal whenever I am there.

    You won’t accept that Québec is francophone. The best certain anglos can can come up with is that “Montréal is bilingual.” In that sense, bilingual means that a lot of people speak French, but unilingual Anglophones don’t have to lift a finger toward this bilingual character because they are catered to and they “just don’t need to.” That is arrogance like I have never known. Truth be told, cities like Dakar and Algiers are much more “bilingual” in the sense you are describing because the majority of adults I encountered there speak very good French as well as Wolof, Pulaar, Algerois, or Berber. You’re just a frustrated, lazy English speaker in the île de Montréal. You don’t give a fu(k about the survival of French in North America to attack it in its last remaining area where it functions like a regular, societal language (for the most part, as AFG has said, French is still very much threatened). Vous me faites chier.

    ps, as far as your kosher food labeling argument, all I have to say to you is “TOUGH.” Respect Québec’s laws and if they go beyond to the federal level, where everything is required to be bilingual, which this particular example does, then you have no premises. Of course it is rather ridiculous to have things in Alberta or Manitoba all bilingual, further supporting my argument that Québec should be an independent nation and have it’s labels in French only. Le reste du Canada peut faire n’importe quoi avec leurs étiquettes. Until Québec separates, I find it offensive that labels are not bilingual. Or if you are physically in Québec, if things are not labeled in French, I find it even more highly offensive and I would actually take action and complain. You say, “when in Canada, learn both languages . . .I have a feeling that you can’t converse/use French nearly on the same level as Angry French Guy can in English. Just a hunch, je me trompe? Oh, and so what if English speakers in Québec are called Anglophones? In Manitoba, they are called Francophones or Franco-Manitobains. Et Alors?

    Thomas Dean Nordlum

    August 9, 2008 at 10:00 am

  14. AM,

    It holds no water because whether or not Québécois Amerindiens want to use Cree or Iroquois or whatever, the reality of the situation is that people nowadays are so assimilated to the European languages (usually English, but sometimes French, though I may be wrong) that to advocate that they have the same rights as francophones in Canada is absurd because they don’t even use those languages that Anglophones say should be defended.

    But then again, I am comparing it to my experiences in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Manitoba. Though I have a feeling that the situation is not much different in Québec. In my eyes, when Amerindiens defend the right to use English in Québec, they are the same as the Communauté Historique Anglophone de Montréal, because they have assimiliated.

    Thomas Dean Nordlum

    August 9, 2008 at 10:05 am

  15. I’m sorry Rory, but if you can’t understand the difference between a boycott of “French-owned” businesses and a boycott of businesses unable or unwilling to give service to their French-speaking customers in their language, I doubt this discussion can lead anywhere.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 9, 2008 at 10:35 am

  16. I absolutely understand that there are differences, but I also recognize that there are similarities. The sentiment behind a call to boycott a business because it isn’t enough like the majority is the same in both situations. If you really believe that the Gilles Rheaume’s of the world are just good patriots and the Galgabov’s angry racists, then I agree, this discussion won’t go very far.

    RoryBellows

    August 9, 2008 at 12:35 pm

  17. “The problem with you, Angryphone, is that you will do anything, say anything, to not speak French in Québec. When in West Montreal, do as the West Montréalers? The only reason you would do that is because you speak English already and can’t be bothered to respect the majority’s language. Well, when in Petite Italie, why not speak Italian? I’ve heard that language on the streets a lot in that neighborhood in Montréal whenever I am there. ”

    Since you’re quoting me, and since you seem to think angryphone = anyone who doesn’t voluntrily assimilate, then I’ll just assume you’re talking to me.

    When I’m in western Montreal, you’re damn right I’ll do as western Montrealers. That could mean speaking english, or french, or Italian if I was fortunate enough to be able to speak it. What I won’t do as alter my behaviour so as to not upset those in my society that think everyone should conform to one single identity.

    Respect the majority’s language? What the fuck does that even mean? How respectful is it to accuse anyone who still speaks a language other than french of being arrogant? Why is it that the responsability of respecting another’s language always falls on your stereotypical unilingual anglophones? How respectful is the Movement Montreal Francais?

    Keep clinging to your tired old cliche of the unilingual anglophone who wants to colonize the whole of Quebec. You need it to give your arguments any credibility.

    RoryBellows

    August 9, 2008 at 12:56 pm

  18. Thomas Dean Nordlum,

    I was asking more about English and not about the Amerindian languages as I thought people would answer like you did, that those languages are dead anyways.

    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.

    If I understand your statement correctly, the English speakers should not enjoy the same rights because they have assimilated. I am not sure I would agree with that especially since they are speaking a different language than their neigbours. Living on reservations and large differences in some economic and health statistics between Natives and non-Natives would seem to point to two segments of the Quebec population who tend to live very separate lives.

    AM

    August 9, 2008 at 1:18 pm

  19. “The sentiment behind a call to boycott a business because it isn’t enough like the majority is the same in both situations.”

    No it is not. I am not an unconditional supporter of Gilles Rheaume but like him I will and do boycott businesses where I cannot receive service in French.

    Many many many Anglo-owned and Anglo-staffed businesses are perfectly able to serve me in French and I am happy to spend money in their establishments, even if they are “not like the majority”.

    Think about it some more.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 9, 2008 at 2:16 pm

  20. Rory, Angryphone or whomever . . .Somebody who spoke Italian or anyone other language other than English in Quebec realizes that when they are not communicating in the home or with their entourage, that when they speak to service industry oriented people or anyone really on the street, those people realize that they should speak in French first (well, usually, it also depends on if the person is from a English colonial country where they may speak English well). Anglophones don’t get that. They think they can live in English solely in Quebec. No.

    Thomas Dean Nordlum

    August 9, 2008 at 3:21 pm

  21. We can and want to live in English solely in Quebec

    Geck

    August 9, 2008 at 6:28 pm

  22. Thomas,

    Wasn’t it you that was accusing others of arrogance earlier? Yet, you see fit to tell people what language they should speak between them. The hypocrisy in this thread is rampant.

    What if I spoke Italian? Would a conversation between me and my Italian friend have to be in French? Are you saying that two people who’s mother tongues aren’t french should speak french in all cases?

    Let me explain to anyone viewing this blog how conversations between Montrealers take place, not how I think they should. When two people of different mother-tongues get together, the person who’s second language abilities are the greatest switches to his second language. That’s the way I’ve done it my entire life, without a single incident. At no point do we consider the will of the majority, or whether we are being loyal to the state. Personally, I’ll always offer during that first conversation to speak french, but if it is declined, I don’t feel guilty about conversing in english.

    That is what I call respecting someone’s language. I’d love to hear some of the people who use that phrase so frequently explain what they mean by respecting one’s language, because from what I can tell, for some of you it seems to be code for being subservient.

    And Geck is right (in part). We certainly can live in english. It may not be wise, but it is possible. Insisting that the situation should be changed, while demading that anglos accept the french reality of Quebec is yet another sign of the hypocrisy of language extremists.

    RoryBellows

    August 9, 2008 at 7:31 pm

  23. “No it is not. I am not an unconditional supporter of Gilles Rheaume but like him I will and do boycott businesses where I cannot receive service in French.

    Many many many Anglo-owned and Anglo-staffed businesses are perfectly able to serve me in French and I am happy to spend money in their establishments, even if they are “not like the majority”.

    Think about it some more.”

    I thought about it. To me, the difference is in what amount of (french/english) you require to be satisfied with the service. Galganov, it would seem requires that people not be “french”. It’s extreme, I don’t think I’ve ever said otherwise.

    Some of the people who would boycott an anglo business would do so only if the service they receive is in clear violation of the charter. Others have higher standards. Don’t believe me, check out Imperatif Francais’ website.

    One guy complained that after being served in french, the server turned to a fellow employee and spoke in english, thereby giving that employee the impression that the customer was english.

    Another guy complained that when he went to buy clothes, the music that was playing in the store was in english.

    I could go on, but I hope you get my point. I have no doubt that there are people who’s opposition to a given business has nothing to do with whether or not it conforms to the law and everything to do with it being too english for their own personal taste. Do you not see how the sentiment that a person like that possess is similar, not identical to the sentiment behind Galganov’s campaign.

    Yet these people likely believe that they are acting in accordance with the law, that they are acting in the interest of the state and therefore are immune to allegations of bigotry. That is the power of legislation as revered as the charter of the french language.

    RoryBellows

    August 9, 2008 at 7:47 pm

  24. @ Angryphone:

    “I know lots of French Jews and most of them speak speak English. You know why AFG????? Becuase they were not allowed to go to French Catholic schools. Yes […] becuase they were Jews and nationalists didn’t like JEWS.”

    Give me a fucking break!
    Why don’t you mention Anglophone insitutions like McGill University, which had Jewish quotas?

    Here, take a look at this article (which I don’t fully agree with by the way) and learn something:

    http://www.mcgill.ca/maritimelaw/history/richler/

    Cancerous

    August 9, 2008 at 9:39 pm

  25. I just don’t agree with you Rory. Not at all.

    A private conversation is not the same thing as a business conversation. In a business conversation, the person with the money gets to chose the language.

    THAT is the only rule that counts in Montreal.

    And that you can’t argue your case without references of isolated overly sensitive radicals who don’t even understand the French Language Charter is proof of how good anglos have it in Montreal.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 9, 2008 at 10:06 pm

  26. “i suggest you take a trip to Toronto. It’s what Montreal could have been and was. I think every separatist should take a trip there and a take a moment to suck it all in.”

    Why do you make Toronto seem like God’s gift to humanity?
    Maybe when you go to Toronto, you should also visit places like Rexdale, Malvern, Jane & Finch, Dundas & Sherbourne… take a moment and suck it all in: crime, poverty, segregation, inequality… etc.

    Cancerous

    August 10, 2008 at 11:00 am

  27. “And that you can’t argue your case without references of isolated overly sensitive radicals who don’t even understand the French Language Charter is proof of how good anglos have it in Montreal”

    I’m not just using examples of overly-sensitive radicals to prove my argument, their existence and the perceived legitimacy of their views as a result of institutions like the OQLF was my entire argument. Anyways, I’ve made my point. Readers of this blog can decide for themselves.

    RoryBellows

    August 10, 2008 at 1:38 pm

  28. “I’m not just using examples of overly-sensitive radicals to prove my argument, their existence and the perceived legitimacy of their views as a result of institutions like the OQLF was my entire argument.”

    Yes, and I could argue that no one works as hard to give “legitimacy” to Gilles Rhéaume, Raymond Villeneuve and co. as the Anglo media. Just like the other side needs Galganov, William Johnson and Anthony Housefather in order to cast themselves as the good guys.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 10, 2008 at 1:55 pm

  29. […] Who Is Nous There is no such thing as the Québec Language Police […]

  30. The majority of Canada is English so by your theory you should be speaking the majority language which is English. Not

    Here is the issue. Canada is a territory that is majority English Quebec is a terrirtory that is majority French and Beaconsfield and 20 plus cities in Quebec the majority is English. The logical solution and fair solution is to provide services in regards to language in according to cities population. The rest of the world does this at 10% minority language per territory Quebec does the same at a 50%????

    Everyone tells that if i don’t like Quebec I should move to the rest of North America where it is English. Well this is what i say to all racists, if you cannot live in harmony with other people in Quebec and cannot accept that 1,000,000 people who speak English in Quebec and the bilingual nature and heritage then i suggest you move to another French country you have 30 countries in the world to pick from where over 300,000,0000 people speak French as the offical language.

    I accept my French brothers I can live with my French brothers in French. I enjoy living and speaking French but just like i can bend I expect others to respect me and my language. Is that too difficult? Bending is what makes the world work not bending is how wars are created

    Angryphone

    August 11, 2008 at 7:47 am


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