Quebec language watchdog’s latest target – Facebook

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Quebec's language watchdog is at it again.

A boutique clothing store in Chelsea Quebec has been threatened with fines for having their Facebook page in English.

If you didn't know that social media was under the purview of the language watchdog, don't worry — neither did the store's owner.

"Ultimately, to me, Facebook has nothing to do with Quebec," Eva Cooper, purveyor of Delilah in the Parc, told the Toronto Star.

"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.

"Would I be able to do my text in English on (Pinterest or) Twitter?"

According to an Internet lawyer in Quebec, however, Cooper may have to give in to the wishes of provincial authorities.

"It is well-settled law that Quebec company websites must be in French (they can be in another language as well, but must be in French), because they are considered advertising," Allen Mendelsohn told Yahoo Canada News in an email exchange.

"This is based on article 52 of the French Language Charter. Article 52 speaks of certain types of business advertising that must be in French – brochures, catalogues and the like. It then speaks of “toute autre publication de même nature”, and this has been held to include websites. It is not that far of a stretch to say that a Facebook page is advertising in the same way that a normal website is, and would fall under the same rule."

[ Related: Quebec Premier Pauline Marois celebrates hockey gold but snubs Canada ]

Regardless, Canadians shouldn't be surprised at the lengths the watchdog — known as Quebecois de la langue francaise — will go to protect the French language.

This isn't, of course, their first seemingly 'radical' move.

In November 2012, they challenged companies like Walmart and Costco to change their names or add French tag lines to their signs.

And who can forget 'pasta-gate' where they faced international ridicule for ordering an Italian restaurant to remove the word “pasta” from its menu.

Websites have also been targeted: Most recently, a site — operated by Montreal-based Provocateur Communications — was threatened with action for having an English-only website.

Don't tell the authorities, but it appears their Facebook page isn't in French either.

As for Cooper, she told CBC radio that she has requested clarification on the rules and has until March 10 to respond to the department's notice.

We'll keep you posted.

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