AngryFrenchGuy

Making a Complaint to the OQLF for (and because of) Idiots

with 251 comments

As part of my mission to demystify the strange and scary place called Québec, today, boys and girls, I’m going to initiate you to the most vile and hateful ritual that we separatists have been known to partake in. Grab your garlic and keep one browser window on justin.ca, we’re going deep into the bowels of evil French Brotherhood. For you, the inquisitive readers of AngryFrenchGuy, I will renounce the anonymous protection bestowed on me by my brethren and take you through my very first complaint to the Ordre de la Langue Française du Québec.

…or Office de la Langue Française. Whatever.

Growing up in NDG-by-the-Décarie, I’ve always been keenly aware of the difficulty a Francophone can have in obtaining service in French in some parts of Montreal. That said, on the whole, most people were in good faith and you just avoided the stores run by the others. Things had this way of working themselves out.

I had never made a complaint to the OQLF and never expected that would be something I would do. I’ve never been a strong supporter of defending French through legislation – except when it comes to the language of education – and I have always prefered to let my money do the activism.

I came back to Montreal after spending a few years living mainly in Ontario and the contrast hit me in the face like like a STM bus rear-view mirror. Whereas shopkeepers in Toronto were friendly helpful people who seemed to value the service aspect of their profession, in Downtown Montreal I was confronted with aggressive and resentful assholes who made no attempts to hide their sighs of exasperation when I asked to be served in French. Worse, the random NDG dinosaurs who would simply refuse to serve you in French were franchising all the way east on Saint-Denis and beyond.

It was while I was struggling with this increasing frustration and disgust that I came across the nice people at Boffey Auto Sales.

I was looking for a car on the Internet and found one I liked on boffeyautosales.com. I looked for the phone number on the page and I noticed it was all in English. I looked for a Français button, or something. There was none.

I decided to send the company an email. I’m not thinking of bill 101 or of the OQLF at this point. I’m talking about the good old fashioned free market. I sent the shopkeeper my grievance and hoped this would eventually influence him to change his approach. Here’s the copy/paste of my missive:

Hi

I was going to visit your business to look for my next vehicle but a quick visit to your website made me understand you are not interested in my business.

Hint: Only 17% of Montrealers have english as their mother tongue. Maybe some service in the language the est of us speak would help sales!

Meilleure chance la prochaine fois.

Georges

A bit of a wise-ass, but nevertheless polite.

Now here is the response I got from the good people at Boffey:

Hi George, (your name with the correct spelling!)

You seem to be able to communicate quite well in english. It really is too bad that you are so ignorant that you would let language stand in the way of getting a great deal!

Most of the traffic our website sees is from ebay, which you are probably aware, is in english. We advertise on http://www.lespac.com in the language you prefer, and are fluent in both english and french. We have a large french speaking customer base who are interested in getting a deal, not in bickering over language.

The cost to put together the website you see was 2,300$. It seems expensive, but vehicles can be uploaded, and listings modified by a child it is so simple. It would have cost an additional 1,000$ to have it translated. Seeing as most of our online business is conducted in the 9 other provinces that make up our COUNTRY, we decided to save a few dollars. To date you are the only one who has been insulted.

I am actually happy that you made the decision to avoid our lot. Dealing with pigheaded fools such as yourself rarely leads to any profitable business.

Be sure to take a trip on by Encan Direct H. Gregoire, MTL Autoprix or Corporatif Renaud, just to name a few, where you will be catered to in the language of your choice, and will also pay the price for it!!

Hint: The mother tongue of 88% of CANADIANS is english.

Bonne Chance!

Ian Weir
Boffeyautosal

That’s the day I made my first complaint to the OQLF.

Easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Clicked here: www.olf.gouv.qc.ca/francisation/respect/plainte.html, filled the form in 5 minutes and emailed it back. Got a message from the OQLF a week later saying they’d received my complaint. That’s the last I’ve ever heard of it.

As the website is still only in English even though the courts have ruled that ecommerce is absolutely within the OQLF’s jurisdiction, I can only guess that my complaint is one of the 1000’s that the Imperial Guardians of the Language just delete every year.

And you know what? At the end of the day I’d rather they go after Best Buy and Coach Canada than a poor chump selling used cars on ebay.

In fact, I actually could’ve accepted Mr. Weir’s explanation that the website is only for business outside Québec, had he told me politely. But that day, all I could think was that either he was going to have pay 1000$ to translate his website or he was going to have to pay a 1000$ fine. Busted.

Perhaps this is an illustration of how the system makes it to easy for people to make impulsive complaints about trivial problems.

On the the other hand, it is also a good example of how many business people bring problems upon themselves by being first-class twits.

Re-reading that email a year later, I feel I just might file a second complaint right now…

Written by angryfrenchguy

August 31, 2008 at 1:39 pm

251 Responses

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  1. “Why so much generalization? From what I’ve read, T.K. doesn’t really sound like he’s anti-Quebec… except maybe if, for you, anybody that has english as a first language is against Quebec…”

    Respectfully, I would suggest that you read up a little bit on T.K./Tony Kondaks before you conclude that he is not anti-Quebec.

    And, no, I don’t think that everyone who is primarily English-speaking is anti-Quebec. For example, I don’t consider anglophones like Rory Bellows, well-wisher, littlerob, Thomas Dean Nordlum or even ABP to be anti-Quebec. Some of these people are actually very pro-Quebec, while others can be critical but at least they discuss things fairly and honestly.

    I don’t judge people on what they are, but rather on what they say.

    Acajack

    September 9, 2008 at 11:54 am

  2. Post of the month:

    Vinsteri171’s 9-9-08 10:29am post.

    Except, of course, where he attributes Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” (for which he nominated for an Oscar for Best Song) to the Beatles.

    T.K.

    September 9, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  3. Acajack writes:

    “Respectfully, I would suggest that you read up a little bit on T.K./Tony Kondaks before you conclude that he is not anti-Quebec.”

    Why don’t YOU enlighten us, Acajack, on even ONE UTTERANCE I’ve ever made that was anti-Quebec…

    I challenge you.

    T.K.

    September 9, 2008 at 12:44 pm

  4. T.K. : Sorry about that little mistake. Paul McCartney’s early success came well before I was born…

    I sometimes find it hard to discuss with those that are for the independance of Quebec. Might be the reason why I was never convinced. Although you’ve liked my post, don’t get me wrong : I do believe that preserving the French language and culture in Quebec is important, and I do think that people that have been here for a long time and haven’t even tried to learn the language are idiots. But the reality is that idiots cannot be taught against their will. Trying to force it upon them would pretty much mean using the same tactics that have been used on our people hundreds of years ago… now that wouldn’t really make us any better, right?

    Vinster171

    September 9, 2008 at 1:02 pm

  5. “Why don’t YOU enlighten us, Acajack, on even ONE UTTERANCE I’ve ever made that was anti-Quebec…
    I challenge you.”

    Yes, of course. And Don Cherry is a big fan of the Montreal Canadiens…

    Acajack

    September 9, 2008 at 1:10 pm

  6. “I do believe that preserving the French language and culture in Quebec is important, and I do think that people that have been here for a long time and haven’t even tried to learn the language are idiots. But the reality is that idiots cannot be taught against their will.”

    The problem with idiots though is that when they get too numerous they can take control of the ship and run it aground.

    Acajack

    September 9, 2008 at 1:14 pm

  7. “Yes, of course. And Don Cherry is a big fan of the Montreal Canadiens…”

    Thats great …LOL.

    ABP

    ABP

    September 9, 2008 at 1:18 pm

  8. Acajack : “The problem with idiots though is that when they get too numerous they can take control of the ship and run it aground.”

    That’s the kind of statement that I don’t like… do you see how dangerous it sounds? A nation born on the grounds of intolerance can lead to no good… absolutely no good.

    Why do we have to be so insecure about the future? Is it because it’s harder to define the enemy as clearly as before? Let’s face it… now that the English army is gone… now that we basically walk on the same ground as anglos (the fifty’s are long gone)… it’s getting harder to blame somebody, right?

    Reality check : the language you speak does not define who you are. I have French roots, which I am very proud of. I will teach my kids how to speak French, along with English and Vietnamese (from their mother’s side…). And you know what? That’s about the best thing we can do to make sure that our language and culture survives. And don’t underestimate how powerful a mean this can be. If people were just smart enough to teach their kids to be proud (yes, proud) of their roots, but also encourage them to be open-minded about what else is out there, maybe things would be better. Cultivating the fear of “assimilation” is NOT teaching them to be proud. Let them be proud, not scared damn it!

    Vinster171

    September 9, 2008 at 1:31 pm

  9. “That’s the kind of statement that I don’t like… do you see how dangerous it sounds? A nation born on the grounds of intolerance can lead to no good… absolutely no good.”

    How is it that my statement is more intolerant than yours? I am not the one who called people idiots for not learning French – you did. I just alluded to the fact that it is generally desirable not have too many idiots, be they people in a society who can’t/won’t learn a language to interact with their fellow citizens, or who get drunk and drive their car head-on into yours, or who commandeer a ship and run it into the rocks because they can’t read a nautical map and they just threw the only person who can (the captain) overboard.

    Anyway… I do admire your idealism Vinster, and from your last post I would say that we probably do agree on many things.

    Acajack

    September 9, 2008 at 1:49 pm

  10. Acajack : I think that the distinction comes from what I refered to with the term “idiots”… I think that anybody that doesn’t want to learn a second language is, nowadays, an idiot, whether he is an anglophone or a francophone or whatever else. Let’s be honest here : even if Quebec were to become a country, English would still be the language of economy, trades and sciences. We would still have to learn it, and it would still be useful in our everyday life. Not much can be done to prevent that.

    Idiots that get drunk and drive, we usually deal with them by sending them in prison (well… in theory, anyways…!). But narrow-minded idiots cannot really be dealt with… You have to let them be, and hope that very few will follow their example.

    The language debate is very complex. It’s been done, re-done, and re-re-done multiple times… so often that I’ve grown tired of it. I feel that there’s very little that can still be done by our government without really starting to step on some very sensitive issues linked to freedom of speach/culture. At some point, francophones will just have to start being more responsible themselves, and take it upon themselves to pass their culture on to their children… I don’t know if that’s idealism… utopia… or whatever. I just know that, to me, it seems like the only way to go if nobody is to get hurt along the way…

    Vinster171

    September 9, 2008 at 2:13 pm

  11. But you are right when you say that we probably agree on a lot of things…

    Vinster171

    September 9, 2008 at 2:14 pm

  12. In response to my challenge that he provide just one instance in which I’ve said something anti-Quebec, Acajack writes:

    “Yes, of course. And Don Cherry is a big fan of the Montreal Canadiens…”

    Just as I thought. He was not able to come up with even one.

    T.K.

    September 9, 2008 at 2:15 pm

  13. I think at least part of the issue will likely resolve itself. With most immigrant kids going to French school and the level of French in anglo schools tremendously improved, the number of people who are unilingual English in Quebec is dropping very fast and will likely continue to drop. In turn, this will make life even more complicated for the poor unilingual anglo, since he’ll be increasingly the “odd man out” who can’t speak French in his everyday life here. Which will of course contribute to maintaining the exodus of unilingual anglos that has been a fact of life in Quebec for several decades now.

    And what all of this will perhaps do is bring Quebec fairly close to what many of its nationalists consider to be “societal normalcy”: a place where almost no one (outside of a few excentrics) could possibly entertain the possibility of living without learning the main local language (in this case, French). As René Lévesque once said: Quebec might be as French as Ontario is English.

    Now, there is the issue (discussed at length on other threads here) of the people that come here and who are associated with Anglo-Montreal institutions like McGill and Concordia, where French is often conspicuously absent.

    I guess one question here is how many people are we really talking about? A drop in the ocean or the building blocks of tomorrow’s anglo community? Not sure what the answer is.

    In any event, if these people end up staying after graduation, any non-Canadians will have to send their kids to French school anyway. So I guess one could say the issue is settled after one generation.

    Of course, as alluded to in the other thread, there is also the question of McGill and Concordia graduates leaving Quebec in droves, a problem that might be addressed via better French skills acquisition for anglo university students tailored to the Quebec job market (no matter the field of study). In addition to shoring up French as a professional language in Montreal, it might also help stem the anglo exodus/brain drain phenomenon, which is a serious issue that must be addressed if the Anglo-Quebec community is to have a stable future here.

    Acajack

    September 9, 2008 at 2:33 pm

  14. T.K.:

    As you said, I am “caught up in the paradigm of White, European worldview that looks upon anyone different (from me) as unworthy of equality”.

    So why should you care what I think?

    Acajack

    September 9, 2008 at 2:38 pm

  15. Acajack:

    You shouldn’t care what I think.

    You should care about the way you view the world, which isn’t pretty.

    T.K.

    September 9, 2008 at 2:56 pm

  16. Ahh, T.K…. such a worldly guy amongst we humble rubes.

    ¿Cómo esta tu español?

    Sûrement bien meilleur que votre français, après tant d’années passées dans le désert du Sonora?

    Acajack

    September 9, 2008 at 3:23 pm

  17. Really…the bottom line is that Quebec is likely not to separate from the family….Question is , how do we get along with this language thing….Me, I dont have much of a problem with it although I dont think vast amounts of money have to be spent or that in Quebec they need the laws they have….Some have presented arguments that preservation of a culture and language is a family thing…They are likely right and a good commentary as to what values are…I know we have german, hispanic, mandarin and many other languages in this country that seem to survive…Oh yes, we have the English language and no doubt it will be the one to be most common, at least for now.

    In North America we are being challenged with a number of key economic issues…jobs being exported to countries with reduced labor costs…this will affect all of us whether you be in Quebec or the ROC….it doesnt really matter if you say “I am tired” or “Je suis fatigues”…”.I dont have a job” or J’ai ne travaille pas”

    I think the issue is of regionalism and the various area of Canada. La Francais is by and large irrelevant in many parts of Canada….(prairies, BC, par example) And the Quebecois want to retain their language and culture which I can understand, its a good thing. So then, how can this be worked out without regulation and the perception that something is forced upon an particular segment as it is at this time.

    I think that its become a matter of us against someone else (pick one, you will be right).. The OLA for instance…likely a good thought initially but something that has failed. Issue. its a dividing thing between the Anglos and Quebecois….I myself fell have fallen into this trap and thought that throwing Quebec out would be a good solution…Maybe it is, Maybe its not. All depends upon what the people of Quebec desire…and at this time it certainly is not separation.

    Here is one for you all, considering that this lengthy thread has over 180 plus documents which indicates to me you give a shit.

    Do you ever thing Canada will be a bilingual nation?? For me I doubt it..but that is not the reason to be resistant to another culture and language although the support has to be measured.

    Everyone might be surprised how many bees you catch with honey rather than vinegar on both sides of this equation.

    Hey Acajack, I could understand both the espanol and francais in your last post, even if it was quite simple…Little steps as they say..

    Mon dieu, C’est possible Que Je suis attendre le langue de francais et espanol….Tres bien pour ca.

    Have a good night..

    ABP

    ABP

    September 9, 2008 at 10:05 pm

  18. Like I tried explaining to you many times ABP, Gilles Duceppe and Pauline Marois are trying to build the Canada you want and you are busy calling them names and helping the other guys put obstacle in their way.

    Do you even understand that the Québécois oppose the OLA as much as Westerners? That they want a decentralized, if any, federal governement? That they oppose federal spending in provincial jurisdictions?

    Do you undersatnd that the West and Québec already agree?

    angryfrenchguy

    September 9, 2008 at 10:53 pm

  19. I think you missed the point of my last post AGF..

    Politics is politics…they will tell you what they think you want to hear. From both federal and provincial standpoints. It is up to you to sift the chaff from the wheat..

    And, I understand the federal spending and collection of revenue and redistribution of same.

    So then ,,, who is the enemy, Mon ami.

    If you tell me Gilles or Pauline are my friend, I dont think so, any more than SD or SH. They are, after all politicians.

    The west and Quebec have likely something in common, I agree…

    As I said the last post , bonne nuit AGF.

    ABP

    ABP

    September 9, 2008 at 11:08 pm

  20. ABP : loved your comment. I do think that a lot of people in Quebec have fallen in the “bilingual” trap. The fact that Canada has two official languages does not mean that both language should be spoken by every citizen. This bilingual thing wasn’t meant, in the start, to force French upon anglos, and to force English upon francophone. The fact that we have to learn English in Quebec in order to obtain well paid job can be blamed on global economy rather than on “that mean anglo mastermind”. If I was walking downtown Calgary, I would certainly not expect people to be able to answer my questions in French, nor would I feel ostracized because they can’t. Heck, people in BC might find more use in learning Chinese over French! Language aside, people in the west and people in Quebec share many values.

    AFG : As long as the Bloc and Pauline will have a independantist agenda (even if they’re down-playing it at the moment, it is still there), they’ll have a hard time not raising suspicions from the ROC… and it’s understandable. The Bloc, back when it became the official opposition in the canadian government, arguably did a pretty good job at defending every canadians’ interest. I’m sure that a lot of people elsewhere in Canada might recognize themselves in a political formation that promotes decentralization of powers. So here’s something I’ve read from a reader on a LaPresse discussion board (if you dig enough, you’ll sometimes find well though answers…) : why doesn’t the Bloc get rid of the independantist agenda, change name and start having candidates everywhere? Then, maybe then, could Gilles Duceppe be seen as a friend in the ROC…

    Vinster171

    September 10, 2008 at 9:16 am

  21. Also, AFG… we’ve seen recently that most provinces do agree on a lot of things (federal spending in provincial jurisdictions, the “déséquilibre fiscal” [I don’t have a clue how to translate that… sorry!], etc), and the Partie Québécois and the Bloc Québécois have been presented has champions in those area. Meanwhile, the biggest progress made on these issues… can be attributed to Jean Charest and the Liberals in Québec. It wasn’t so long ago that all the PMs of all the provinces meet and stood their grounds on these issues. We like to think that the PQ and BQ are the best options to represent Quebec’s interests… and I’ll agree that they’re filled with good intentions. But arguably, the Liberals, like them or not, have done more for the province of Quebec when it comes to its relations with the Federal government than the Bloc and the PQ…! All this to show that you don’t have to be for the independance of Québec to be nationalist and to represent Québec efficiently on the federal scene. A political formation that does not promote clearcut separation will always have more credibility… and will certainly gather more positive attention from the ROC.

    Vinster171

    September 10, 2008 at 9:32 am

  22. “The Bloc, back when it became the official opposition in the canadian government, arguably did a pretty good job at defending every canadians’ interest. I’m sure that a lot of people elsewhere in Canada might recognize themselves in a political formation that promotes decentralization of powers. So here’s something I’ve read from a reader on a LaPresse discussion board (if you dig enough, you’ll sometimes find well though answers…) : why doesn’t the Bloc get rid of the independantist agenda, change name and start having candidates everywhere? Then, maybe then, could Gilles Duceppe be seen as a friend in the ROC…”

    Now *there’s* an interesting suggestion if there ever was one…

    Acajack

    September 10, 2008 at 9:58 am

  23. ABP: “Me, I dont have much of a problem with it although I dont think vast amounts of money have to be spent or that in Quebec they need the laws they have”
    AND
    “And the Quebecois want to retain their language and culture which I can understand, its a good thing. So then, how can this be worked out without regulation and the perception that something is forced upon an particular segment as it is at this time.”

    This may not come as a surprise, but I’d say the laws that are in place are likely to remain as they are for a long time to come. I feel even more strongly about this if Quebec remains a province of Canada, which appears quite likely at this point.

    Acajack

    September 10, 2008 at 10:07 am

  24. “This may not come as a surprise, but I’d say the laws that are in place are likely to remain as they are for a long time to come. I feel even more strongly about this if Quebec remains a province of Canada, which appears quite likely at this point.”

    Yes, I think unfortunately thisto be the case.
    Odd, no one answered my question as to if Canada would ever become a bilingual country (english/french) in my last post. I suppose I already know what the answer would be so maybe it was a poor question to ask.

    Right on the separation issue as well. No appetite right now. Was interesting to see “Jaques Brassard” take the shot at Duceppe today….Largely saying that without the separation agenda, the bloc is ineffective in Ottawa and that maybe quebecers should take anothere route.

    Dont think Gilles thought too much of his comments.

    ABP

    ABP

    September 10, 2008 at 2:10 pm

  25. ABP : will Canada ever be a “bilingual” country? Quebec doesn’t really have a choice… as for the ROC, well… I guess they can pretty much learn any second language they want. That’s about the best answer that comes to mind right now… :P

    As for Brassard’s comments, they’re not that surprising if you consider that the Quebec independance movement is basically composed of people whose opinions might go from the left to the right of the political spectrum, but that agree on one important subject… That might explain why a lot more people are voting Conservative in Quebec since the PQ and the BQ have taken good steps to the left…

    Vinster171

    September 10, 2008 at 2:18 pm

  26. “Odd, no one answered my question as to if Canada would ever become a bilingual country (english/french) in my last post. I suppose I already know what the answer would be so maybe it was a poor question to ask.”

    These days I am fond of telling fellow francophones (or at least those who are willing to listen to me) that Canada is about as bilingual as it is going to get, and not to expect much more progress beyond what we have already made. I think that on the federal government services side most of the original bilingual objectives have been achieved.

    But on the level of individuals, I’d say that the % of bilingual people in the ROC is close to maxing out. Newer immigrants coming into the country often have to learn English even, so it’s hard to see that many of them getting around to learning French.

    The one exception is Quebec, where the trend shows the number of people unable to speak French (be they allo or anglo) becoming almost negligible within our lifetimes. Of course, this might change rapidly if Quebec becomes a bona fide destination for internal Canadian migration (read migration from the ROC), which some people suspect it might be slowly becoming. For a long time, Quebec anglo migration patterns were one way – OUT. Almost no anglos moved to Quebec from the ROC. Now, it is increasingly (though not quite there yet) seen as “a province like all the others” (une province comme les autres), and the fact that it’s mainly French doesn’t scare people off so much.

    Another Quebec exception is the number of francophones who speak English as a second language that continues to rise. Of course, most of these people aren’t necessarily learning English to be good Canadians, as everyone knows.

    What this all means is that francophones are going to continue to have to use English almost exclusively (as they always have) when dealing with their compatriots from the ROC (though perhaps less so in settings that are internal to Quebec), be it in the armed forces, the federal public service, the federal cabinet, national Olympic and other sports teams, the CBC/SRC board of directors, etc.

    Acajack

    September 10, 2008 at 2:32 pm

  27. “no one answered my question as to if Canada would ever become a bilingual country (english/french) in my last post. I suppose I already know what the answer would be so maybe it was a poor question to ask.”

    Very poor question indeed. As we have explained to you many times ABP, nobody ever expected every Canadian to be billingual.

    That would be ridiculous. That would be Justin Trudeau:

    http://justin.ca/hello-world/

    And:

    http://www.prenezgardeauxchiens.com/413/justin-trudeau-en-primeur/

    angryfrenchguy

    September 10, 2008 at 3:05 pm

  28. I’ll answer your question..NO. And I will tell you why. Quebec thinks it’s NOT a part of Canada, or it would follow the law i.e. bilingual. Yet demands billions in dollars (calling a spade a spade) from us taxpayers to keep you in the country. Quebecers DEMAND their language be everywhere in “Canada” yet define English “illegal” in Quebec. Explain to me how that is…ummm…sane…There is a difference between protecting your culture and racism. If you want Quebec to survive, better wrap your head around that.

    Sean McAllister

    September 10, 2008 at 7:25 pm

  29. “Quebec thinks it’s NOT a part of Canada, or it would follow the law i.e. bilingual.”

    Of course, and Canada outside Quebec (except for NB) is really bilingual, right? You probably think the fact that the signs on the 401 that say “WEST/OUEST” make Toronto a bilingual city!

    Acajack

    September 11, 2008 at 8:23 am

  30. Sean McCallister : rarely have I seen someone so proud of his own ignorance. I guess my “live and let die” applies to you…

    Vinster171

    September 11, 2008 at 9:26 am


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