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Freedom Of Expression Under Attack In Quebec

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Picture this: You own a business. You work hard. You pay your taxes. You provide jobs. You add to the culture and economy of your city.

You thought that -– in whatever language — you lived and worked in a democracy, a democracy you trusted to defend and respect your rights as a business owner and as an individual.

Then suddenly, you get hit with a fine for breaking the law. Perplexed, the person handing out the ticket explains, “You have too many English signs in your pub.”

You answer in your best Will Ferrell impression, “Wha?”

Only it’s not funny.

“Your signs are in English please remove them.”

“But they are signs imported from Ireland. We’re Irish.”

“Pauvre toi. C’est la loi. A la prochaine, mon ami!”

No silly. This isn’t a page out of 1984. It’s straight out of Quebec 2008.

It’s hard to put into words what exactly what L’office de la langue Francaise does. It leads quite a nuanced existence. In a nutshell, it aims to enhance and protect the French language.

Sound innocuous enough.

But then again so was Nibbler on Futurama. The unfortunate thing about the OLF is that it is an organization that has the legal right to fine citizens for not complying with Quebec’s language laws.

Before I go on, let me first say that this is not an attack on Quebec. Rather, this is not a piece written on political or cultural grounds, but strictly from a civil liberty’s perspective.
Quebecers rightly want to protect the French language. No one disputes this. However, there has to be a better, more appropriate way to handle this.

Enter McKibbin’s Irish Pub. Acting on the complaint of a concerned citizen, the OLF donned their capes and raced to the pub. Bif! Pow! Twang!

When they got there they discovered — to their horror — that that the staff spoke English among one another and the menus were only in English – though on this last point the pub should have known better.

Furthermore, the OLF inspector insanely “ordered McKibbins to remove advertisements for Guiness Dublin 1759 Ireland Trademark, Palethorpes Pork Pies, and St. James Gate Dublin – products that have not been available for more than a century” and “On Feb 6, the Office de la langue française informed McKibbin's owners that, under article 58 of the language charter, too much English was being spoken among the staff” as reported by the Montreal Gazette.

The tactics and antics used by the OLF amount to nothing more than cultural fascism.

They are a parochial organization that preys on the insecurities of a society.   To them, if Quebecers are not diligent, the French language will be eradicated from the face of North America. They are not entirely wrong, but what does hounding, harassing and infringing upon civil liberties accomplish?

The OLF thinks that walking into random businesses and fining them (in essence the government is needlessly robbing people of their money) equates to protecting the French language.

Is it?

Think hard about this one.

And don’t look to the geniuses over at the Quebec Liberal Party to step in. In fact, according to the latest resolutions set forth by the party, they intend to increase the roll of the OLF. In section they call for businesses to be visited regularly.

This coming from the only party that claims to represent all Quebecers.

Nice. Now I can’t vote for all three parties here.

Just ban English, give the OLF some brown shirts and be done with it already. If not, defend the rights of the people –- without strings attached. If this is what Quebec wants so be it. However, dare not to call it a democracy -– it’s a Quebocracy.

Let the true will of Quebecers stand up and do what's right. Let us live in linguistic and cultural peace once and for all. Marginalize those who do nothing to enhance Quebec culture and everything to demean it.

Let freedom reign.

In the upcoming days McKibbins will be launching a site www.byebyeolf.com. They intend to fight the fines. I support and wish them well in the name of liberty.

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About Alessandro Nicolo

  • Clavos

    Unbelievable, Alessandro.

    apparemment, l’office se souvient de trop.

  • Silver Surfer

    Good piece Alessandro. This just confirms everything I’ve always known, and which us Anglo-celts elsewhere have known for centuries: the French are perfidious, can’t be trusted and will do bizarre stuff on a whim and at the drop of a hat if it involves any opportunity at all to embarrass “the Eeengleesh” 🙂

    I don’t understand why a mere 1000 years of humiliation at the hands of a small island country across a narrow strip of water can do that to a race of people, but it has.

    Which is sad, because the French are actually a wonderful people and have so much to offer the world. If only they’d actually OFFER it.

  • alessandro


    Les citoyens veut avoir la paix et une esprit sain.

  • alessandro

    Thanks SS.

    Well, don’t ever tell a Quebecer they are like the French!

  • C’est fâcheux, bien sûr, mais je pense que Stan a la bonne idée. Toutes les siècles d’humiliation à cause des Anglais explique cette insecurité au part du Francosphere.


  • Clavos

    Vous parlez le Français tres bien, m’sieu le docteur.

    Dites-moi, s’il vous plait:

    ou est la plume de votre tante?


  • RH.

    Apparament, Monsieur Les Clous, vous avez appris le français pendant la Troisième République…

  • “No one expects the Spanish [French] Inquisition!”

    This was a recurring sketch always predicated on an unrelated sketch in which one character, expressing irritation at being questioned by another, would announce “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!” At this point the Inquisition—consisting of Cardinals Ximénez (Michael Palin), Biggles (Terry Jones), and Fang (Terry Gilliam)—would burst into the room at the sound of a jarring chord. Ximénez would shout, with a particular and high-pitched emphasis on the first syllable, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” From Wikipedia

  • alessandro

    This has got to be a first: a thread where French is predominant! And they say French is dying.

    I would go with Quebec Inquisition.

    I must profess gentlemen, your French skills are superiour to mine! Je besoin beaucoup de pratique.

    Doc, as a point of interest since you mentioned Clavos’ French deriving from the Second Republic, my French is from the streets of Laval.

    The whole Quebec affair is ironic in two ways: One, the enormous influence the French language has had on the English language historically. I wonder if the OLF will ban words like “driveway”, “stoppe” and “party” which have crept in the Quebecois vernacular.

    Two, Canada could learn a thing or two in assertively defending its national interests from Quebec.

  • Clavos

    “I wonder if the OLF will ban words like “driveway”, “stoppe” and “party” which have crept in the Quebecois vernacular.”

    Isn’t it interesting how Francophones are so sensitive to the inclusion of foreign (particularly English) words in the French vernacular?

    I remember some years ago the movement in France to ban such Anglicisms as “Le drugstore.”

  • alessandro

    They see themselves not only as 7 million people within a defined territory but as 7 among 330 million English-speaking North Americans. Therefore, eternal diligence is necessary.

    Though they tend to group “les autres” or the rest of Canada (ROC) as one monolithic block which of course is wrong.

    Imagine how many words English would have to ban that have crept in from the French side!

  • Alessandro: Doc, as a point of interest since you mentioned Clavos’ French deriving from the Second Republic

    As you know, I was pulling his leg over his use of the clichéd phrase ‘Où est la plume de ma tante?’ – a tip of the hat to that outdated teaching method which turned out students who had a thorough knowledge of French vocabulary and grammar but absolutely no idea how to carry on a conversation in the language.

    I was subjected to this method myself for a time, by a teacher who had grown up in France during the Nazi occupation, and apparently hadn’t come into contact with a native French speaker since.

    Fortunately, by that time I was already a fairly competent speaker – not least because my father was a Francophile and was fluent in the language.

    Clav: I remember some years ago the movement in France to ban such Anglicisms as “Le drugstore.”

    Ironically, the word ‘drug’ is of French origin – as are many of the other English ‘interlopers’ the Académie Française rails against: ‘parking’, ‘trainer’, ‘hit-parade’, etc.

  • Clavos

    “not least because my father was a Francophile and was fluent in the language.”

    Another thing we have in common, Doc.

    You seem to be much more fluent in le francais than I, but like yours, my father was totally fluent in French and sparked my interest in the language. In fact, I remember being very much amused at my father’s “franish” when I was a kid. He mixed the two languages prodigiously, plus he had a hell of a gringo accent (in Spanish, not French – that, he spoke like a native Parisian), and I worked up a whole routine making fun not only of my parents’ accents, but of all their gringo friends as well; much to the amusement of the adults.

    Dad spent his childhood summers in Paris, because his mother loved it there, though she was an American. He learned French the way I learned Spanish; from babyhood on.

  • alessandro

    Thanks for the clarification, Doc. Of course, I was poking fun at myself describing my gutter French.

    In my case, I speak three languages too but a master of none.

  • STM

    The final humiliations for the French in relation to their peaceable dealings with the English-speakers (because in those dealings that weren’t peaceable the poms have always had the upper hand), were such things as Greenwich Meantime being the standard line of time from which all other zones emanate. Since the main issue was a maritime one, and the Brittania was the undisputed mistress of the seas in terms of her navy and her merchant fleet, it was the obvious thing to do … but no, the French couldn’t see it.

    The French of course had come up with one that ran through Paris, but were overruled at a conference.

    Their attitude has always been that their culture is vastly superior to any other in Europe (and in some ways, they are right), and why doesn’t everyone realise this??

    The last time I was in France, a rude French waiter (is there any other kind) who tried to make a pass at my girlfriend asked me, with a flick of his wrist: “If you come to France, you should speak French … why didn’t you learn it.”

    My answer: “My (blonde, buxom) girlfriend speaks it fluently, as you’ve noticed because you are now sitting between us with your back to me, I never planned to come to France, and I’m only here for a week anyway and she’s translating, and hardly anyone outside France speaks French anyway. English is the world language, which is why you speak it.”

    Well, now wasn’t he a happy chappy. I love it when Frenchmen wave their arms to no avail.

  • alessandro

    Their attitude has always been that their culture is vastly superior to any other in Europe (and in some ways, they are right)

    Yes but there’s a little Latin gem known as Italy that possesses quite the culture. Italy takes a back seat to nobody.

    As for Quebec and France. To me, all they share is language. For centuries the French pissed on Quebec – even abandoning them in their time of need following the Plains of Abraham.

    Although some Quebecers aren’t fans of France, there has been a rapprochement recently – but that’s reserved for boneheaded nationalists who seem to remember every perceived bad Canada Anglais did to them but suddenly have amnesia with French indiscretions.

    Personally, I think Quebecers have more in common with Americans than they do with France.

  • Clavos

    “Personally, I think Quebecers have more in common with Americans than they do with France.”

    They sure like South Florida in the winter…

  • alessandro

    No kidding.

    And Ogonquit.

  • STM

    Nah, anyone who speaks frog as a first language is a frog at heart 🙂

  • a rude French waiter (is there any other kind)

    No, there is no other kind. This is why obesity is not a huge problem in France, despite the abundance of fantastic tucker.

  • j.s.

    I agree completely. I think that it’s a reasonable request that menus be bilingual, but speaking too much English? Too many English signs? It’s insane. And yeah, pointing out the fact that every other word people in Quebec say is in English: yeah, nice one OLF.
    I’ve lived in Quebec for 3 years now and I think it’s a great province. I love the province and the people, but the politics are a little insane! Too bad a few morons make Quebec seem so insane.

  • alessandro

    JS: I agree with you – though I do not agree Quebec’s reliance on government on many issues. The requests are fair. As I pointed out in the article, McKibbin’s should have had bilingual menus. But the rest is pure rubbish as my Aussie/Brit square head friends would say.

    The place and people make Quebec quite the fine place to live. However, the politics puts a dark cloud on everything. Enough for me to strongly consider bolting. I know of many people who start internet businesses don’t register their companies in Quebec but elsewhere. They follow things to their logical end. They just can’t take the chance. What if Quebec insanely decides to “regulate” co. on the Internet? The PQ actually suggested they do that!

    If we could reduce the reliance on government (including breaking the grip on power the unions have) and normalize the politics, Quebec would have a chance to be a “have” province.

    My French buddy always says: “I know it’s crazy! But Canada and Quebec are young societies. They have to mature a little!”

    Dunno about that one though.

  • The Emergency Meeting of the L’Office Québécois de la Langue Française

    At the last emergency meeting of L’Office Québécois de la Langue Française to discuss the latest threat to their culture, all the members were fired up to get there early.

    After arriving in the morning in their Japanese cars, they shared a breakfast of Belgian waffles, Spanish omelettes, Mexican cornbread and good old Tim Horton’s coffee. While eating, someone admired Présidente-Directrice Générale Madame France Boucher’s outfit, including new Italian shoes and her nice new Hong Kong-made purse, and everyone laughed when she said she bought the purse at Walmart. . . and admitted she got her skirt while on vacation in Florida!

    They chatted about Amy Winehouse’s performance at the Grammys and Monsieur Guy Dumas mentioned that last night he went to see the new “Rambo” move, version française of course, at the American-owned AMC Theatre downtown . . . after eating at Boston Pizza. He said had not slept well because his teenager kept playing her Jay-Z and Kanye West CD’s in her bedroom too loud.

    With breakfast done they moved to their new boardroom decked out in Ikea furniture and a Honduras Mahogany boardroom table to start their emergency meeting. Madame Marie Gendron fired up the Sony projector and her Toshiba Laptop to present a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation on how a handful of English signs at McKibbin’s Irish Pub were destroying the French culture

  • Clavos

    Bravo, Adam!

    Tres amusant!

  • alessandro

    Seriously. That was a lot of fun.

    Sign of the times.

  • Dean Laderoute

    The menus are in French and English at both McKibbins pubs and always have been.