I knew when Eva Cooper walked into the Low Down to Hull and Back weekly newspaper’s office in Wakefield, Qc with a notice from the OQLF, it would be a big story. I definitely can’t say I was surprised it went viral, but I’m not going to lie, it felt good to be the journalist who broke Cooper’s important story and my first national story.
ICYMI: Here are the first stories that broke the story, written by me of course.
The Low Down to Hull and Back:
Eva Cooper, owner of a small Chelsea boutique called Delilah in the Parc, has been served a notice from the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) ordering her to translate the posts on her business’s Facebook page into French or risk potential legal action. “I think they are opening up a can of worms,” said Cooper, who employs about 10 people in total at her stores in Chelsea and the Glebe. “If they wanna’ bring on the fight, bring it on.”
The notice obtained by the Low Down dated Feb. 7 was delivered to Cooper on Feb. 17 and gave her until Mar. 10 to respond and negotiate a timeline for corrections to be made. If she continues to object, she will be delivered a demand letter, which will carry consequences, such as a fine.
This comes just over a year after the infamous ‘pastagate’ scandal in Montreal where an Italian restaurant was notified by the OQLF – the governmental organization in charge of enforcing Bill 101 – to translate the word pasta into ‘pâtes’. Since then, the OQLF has promised to “triage” complaints and rule out allegations against businesses that are a waste of the bureau’s time. However, questionable complaints continue to make headlines across the province – there was a report made concerning a spoon with English writing on it, while another complaint was made against two hospital workers who were speaking Créole on their own time in Montreal.
CHELSEA, QUE.—The agency in charge of enforcing the primacy of the French language in Quebec apparently has a new target — social media.
Eva Cooper, the owner of a small retail boutique in Chelsea, Que., has been notified by the language agency that if she doesn’t translate the shop’s Facebook page into French, she will face an injunction that will carry consequences such as a fine.
“Ultimately, to me, Facebook has nothing to do with Quebec,” said Cooper, who uses the social media site to inform customers of new products in her boutique north of Ottawa. The shop — Delilah in the Parc —has an all-bilingual staff of fewer than 10 people.
“I’m happy to mix it up, but I’m not going to do every post half in French, half in English. I think that that defeats the whole purpose of Facebook,” said Cooper, who has requested the agency send her their demands in English.
Cooper’s case represents a new frontier for the language agency, the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF). The agency says probes of social media complaints, which started only recently, are “not frequent.”
This all comes amid election talk in the province. Diane De Courcy, Quebec minister of immigration and cultural communities, said earlier this week that if her party wins the next election, they will toughen language laws for small businesses. In particular, the Parti Québécois will crack down on bilingualism, such as the “Bonjour-Hi” greeting used in many areas, including Chelsea and Montreal.