Home Opinions A new take on an old law

A new take on an old law

by Tiffany Lafleur November 27, 2012
A new take on an old law

Graphic by Phil Waheed

Quebec’s ‘language police’ have found a new target: Walmart, along with Guess, Costco, Old Navy and many other corporations who sport English names on their storefront.

As stated in Section 63 of Quebec’s French Language Charter, the name of a business must be in French. However, this is not applied to trademarked names. The Office québécois de la langue française is now threatening to fine the companies who don’t comply with their new demands. The fines range from $3,000 to $20,000, and will increase with repeat offenders.

According to the Montreal Gazette, “the Office quebecois de la langue francaise wants the retailers to change their signs to either give themselves a generic French name or add a slogan or explanation that reflects what it is they’re selling.” For example, by changing “Walmart” to “Le Magasin Walmart.” Because that clears up the mystery of what it is they sell.

Thing is, the law hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way that the Office interprets its meaning, and they expect the companies to calmly submit to their demands. I mean, it’s not as if changing your name is a big deal or anything, right?

In response to this new action, Walmart, Costco, The Gap, Guess and Old Navy have teamed up and are bringing the matter to the Quebec Superior Court to resolve the issue.

Guess has over 1000 stores in 87 different countries. They are known worldwide as “Guess”, even in countries that don’t speak either English or French. In France, they are not called Devine.

Walmart also has stores around the world and doesn’t need to hold a seminar to explain to the locals what it is they sell. Quebec is pushing the envelope on this subject and seriously needs to give it a rest.

Nathalie St-Pierre, vice-president for the Retail Council of Canada’s Quebec branch, is against this new interpretation of the law, and says that the effort is misdirected. In her opinion, consumers don’t really care about what the name of the brand is, as long as they can get service in French.

Yes, French is in decline and I agree that something needs to be done to protect it. But changing the names of major corporations, really? It borders on ridiculous. Quebec has enough problems as it is without adding this to the list of things to deal with.

All these corporations respect every minute detail of Bill 101 and yet the ‘language police’ are still unsatisfied, because they refuse to change their logo and name to add something in French. These companies have worked hard to build up their image, logo and reputation. They have achieved worldwide recognition for their emblem, and hardly need an explanation as to what they are selling. This whole thing is a small issue that has been totally blown out of proportion and should be dropped before it gets even more ridiculous.

If the OLF doesn’t want to lose their credibility, then they should stop trying to solve problems that don’t exist.

Related Articles