After weeks of promising change, the Minister of the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, has finally announced new plans to further protect French in Quebec. At the heart of the announcement is a promise to open three new OQLF offices — the agency's first expansion since the '80s.
The new offices in Laval, Longueuil, and Drummondville will allow the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) to "intervene more effectively where its presence in francization is a necessity" and "allow the Montreal team to focus solely on the metropolis," according to a statement.
The protection of the French language is once again becoming a priority for the Quebec government.
Simon Jolin-Barrette, Minister responsible for the French Language
The OQLF will also open 50 new positions "dedicated to operational activities to ensure that the right to work in French and the right of consumers to obtain products and services in French are respected."
The new hires will double the number of inspectors.
Jolin-Barrette has for weeks promised changes were coming, after a survey from the OQLF shows a whopping 60% of employers in Montreal asked new hires for English skills.
Ah, the OQLF, the Quebec agency charged with promoting the French language and enforcing laws that protect it.
In addition to providing resources for French learners and launching campaigns to encourage its use, the office also investigates possible violations of the Charter of the French Language, or Bill 101. Commonly referred to as the collection of the province's "language laws," Bill 101 establishes rules for the use of French in commercial activity.
On its website, the OQLF publishes the names of businesses its investigations found violated the Charter. If found guilty, these businesses could be liable to a fine imposed by a Quebec court.
Here are the Montreal businesses that have been slapped with a fine for violating language laws in 2021.
Qiang Zhong Inc. Real Estate
In October, a $1,500 fine went to Qiang Zhong Inc., a real estate company in Montreal.
The OQLF cited a violation of section 52 of the Charter, which states that "catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories and any similar publications must be drawn up in French."
According to the OQLF, the company posted advertising on Facebook that wasn't translated to French.
Dress 2 Impress/Agence D2I
Earlier in October, this modelling agency was fined $600, also for violating section 52.
The OQLF said in its announcement that the company "was accused of having a website (www.d2i-agency.com) with content that was not in French."
Guy LaRue Notary
In May, this notary business in Verdun was slapped with a $600 fine after the owner pleaded guilty to violating section 58 of the French language charter, according to the OQLF.
Section 58 states that "public signs and posters and commercial advertising must be in French" or French and another language so long as the French is "markedly predominant."
The office says the notary business had signs on which French was not predominant.
In April, this company in Saint-Laurent was given a $1,500 fine after pleading guilty to a Charter section 52 violation.
The OQLF says that a complaint was issued in 2019 because the company's website didn't have a French translation.
Le Marché Fooderie
In April, Le Marché Fooderie was fined $1,500 for a violation of section 52 of the Charter of the French Language. We're seeing a theme on this list.
In what looks like a classic situation, the OQLF says the business was accused of not having French content on its website.
Diebold Nixdorf Canada, Limited
Diebold Nixdorf Canada, Limited paid a $1,500 fine in April for violating section 140 of the Charter, according to the language watchdog.
Section 140 stipulates that the OQLF can order a business to "adopt a francization program" if it finds that "the use of French is not generalized at all levels of the enterprise." The business then has six months to send its program plan to the office for approval.
The OQLF says Diebold Nixdorf was accused of not sending in a plan on time.
The OQLF is working to keep French as the language of business. The office announced that on October 21, a Quebec court fined a Montreal-based real estate broker $1,500 for violating the language law on ads and publications.
Qiang Zhong Inc., a real estate broker, was accused of "not having written in French the commercial publications posted on its Facebook page," according to a press release. The accusation followed a complaint.
The OQLF recorded the infraction on October 23, 2019.
The office explained Zhong was in violation of Article 52 of the Charter of the French Language, which states that "catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories and any similar publications must be drawn up in French."
According to the OQLF, "This includes posts of this nature disseminated on websites and social media."
In its press release, the OQLF reiterated that its job is to ensure "that French is the normal and usual language of work, communication, commerce, business and administration."
MTL Blog reached out to Zhong for comment and will update this article when we get a response.
The OQLF was under a lot of pressure during the height of the pandemic, with calls to abolish the organization after a series of high-profile incidents involving Montreal-area businesses.
Meanwhile, the CAQ government has committed to expanding the organization, opening new offices in Laval, Longueuil and Drummondville so that it can "intervene more effectively where its presence in francization is a necessity," according to a September 2020 press release.
The new offices will also give the Montreal office room to "focus solely on the metropolis," the government said.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
The campaign, entitled Partage ton français, targeted teens aged 13 to 17 and included posters offering French alternatives to common internet lingo like selfie (égoportrait), binge-watching (visionnement en rafale) and newsfeed (fil d'actualité), among other casual terms relating to fashion, sports and video games.
The OQLF also designed shareable social media stickers on Giphy encouraging students to "partage ton amour," "partage ton exploit," "partage ton humour," "partage ton œuvre" and "partage ton escapade."
High school teachers could also find workshops that challenged students to think about the language they use on social media.
"We live in a francophone province in a francophone city from a legislative perspective, but the reality of Montreal is far different," the leader of Mouvement Montréal said in an interview with MTL Blog.
"So, for us, it was important to re-establish the identity of Montreal, which is one that is inclusive."
"This is not a contested question," Holness said, citing a survey showing most Montrealers believe the city is bilingual. "We all know Montreal is bilingual and multicultural and it is something that we should embrace and recognize."
"Moreover, Montreal beyond that is even trilingual," he continued. "There are people from all over the world who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian. And all of these languages make up the diversity of Montreal, and it enriches us all."
Rather than contributing to the decline of French in Montreal, Holness said his language policies would help preserve it by offering non-francophones incentives to learn.
"The fact that we are going to incentivize and ameliorate the chances of anglophones to work in the City of Montreal means they'll be able to learn French through their employment activity," he said. "We're going to be increasing la francisation des anglophones."
"Right now, what's happening is that we're excluding anglophones," he continued. "They're moving to demerged cities such as Westmount, such as Côte Saint-Luc, such as Kirkland. They're not being incorporated into the reality and to the economic life of Montreal, and we're just pushing them all away."
Holness wants more jobs for people with spotty French
If elected, Mouvement Montréal would work to create a more inclusive municipal workforce because it's currently falling short in terms of ethnic and linguistic diversity, he said.
Of the city's roughly 25,000 municipal employees, "only about 2% of those in management positions are visible minorities and even less of those are anglophone," Holness claimed.
To change that he plans to lower the French language requirements for municipal jobs.
"Right now, when you go in for a [municipal] job, there is an evaluation based on your capacity to speak French," he said.
"So, we want to create assessments and evaluations of language that are less severe to allow individuals to get into the workforce. And then they can learn French, once they are on the job, through their interactions with their coworkers and with the public."
"The idea is that anglophones, especially those that are visible minorities, should have an easier time getting into the workforce," he continued.
'They don't want to be inclusive'
On November 7 people will vote to elect a mayor as well as 46 members of Montreal's City Council.
The current mayor, Projet Montréal's Valérie Plante, is seeking re-election and her main challenger is the previous mayor, Ensemble Montréal's Denis Coderre.
As Plante recently introduced an "action plan" to promote the French language in Montreal and Coderre is reportedly open to provincial government-led language reform, Holness accused his opponents of trying to impose provincial ideas on the metropolis.
"Valérie Plante is from Rouyn-Noranda, Denis Coderre is from Joliette," he continued. "And there's this whole idea that the regions are imposing on Montreal their vision for Montreal. And the question is, what do Montrealers want for their city?"
"Many people across the region say Montreal is the only francophone city in North America, and they're right, but Montreal also has a bilingual multicultural reality," he said. "So you have Quebec City trying to impose an identity on Montreal does not meet reality, which is multilingual and multicultural."
"We need a multilingual and multicultural policy and beyond that, a political party that reflects that diversity through and through," he added.
Projet Montréal does not reflect that diversity, he concluded, explaining how he helped organize a grassroots anti-racism movement, which he says prompted the city's public consultation agency to hold a series of hearings on systemic discrimination in 2019.
As a result, Plante created a commissioner on systemic discrimination and promised to hire more minorities for municipal jobs. But Holness had sharp words for the mayor, saying she only took those steps out of "obligation."
"The reason why there was a public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination is because the administration had an all-white French executive committee when they were elected in 2017. Period. That's their vision of Montreal," he said.
"They don't want to be inclusive," he said. "Mouvement Montréal, my political party, is by its very nature, authentically diverse. We've done in two months what it took them nearly two decades to do, which is have a diverse team."