In an ongoing row between Quebec's culture police and residents who dare to speak, read or write languages other than French, a new battlefield has emerged.
A young woman says she was told she couldn't speak English while working at a local grocery store, not even to her co-workers and not even at lunch.
The incident follows on the heels of much-publicized attacks against Italian restaurant menus and big retail store signs. It begs the question: Should the state stay out of the break rooms of the province?
CTV News reports that 17-year-old Meaghan Moran was forbidden to speak English by supervisors at an IGA grocery store in Saint-Lambert, Que. The part-time worker was even told she had to speak French during her breaks.
Moran, who plans to file a human rights complaint, recorded a conversation between herself and two supervisors, during which a person later identified as the store's human resource manager said, “Inside these walls people speak the language of work, which is Quebec’s language. It’s the law.”
The same manager also said the store would turn into a "ghetto" if other languages were allowed in the break room. While we wouldn't want to besmirch the sanctity of grocery store break rooms, this demand seems to be a little beyond the bounds of propriety.
Actually, it turns out to be quite a bit beyond the bounds.
[ More Brew: Canadians still prefer driving cars to work, survey finds ]
There is no law that dictates what language Quebec residents can use to communicate with one another, as Jean-Francois Lisee, Quebec’s minister responsible for Montreal, was forced to clarify.
Of course, it is tough to know where that line actually sits, considering the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise, known as Quebec’s language police, recently attacked Wal-Mart store signs as being too English and later accused an Italian restaurant of using too much Italian on their menu.
Most recently, a Montreal yogurt store says it was admonished over the English on its plastic spoons, which feature phrases such as “Sweet Moosic.”
The IGA store's owner, Louise Menard, later confirmed there was no official store policy restricting the speaking of any language in the store and suspended the head of human resources for suggesting there was.
"Whether it’s from … burnout, or fatigue, I don’t know, except it was very poor communication since she knows the regulations of our workplace. We want her to take a break now,” Menard told CTV News.
One hopes the human resources manager doesn't accidentally speak English during her imposed break, lest she find herself ghettoized. It can happen in an instant.
Want to know what news is brewing in Canada?
Follow @MRCoutts on Twitter.