Montreal bakery to Quebec language cops: don't fine struggling businesses during pandemic

Published Oct. 24, 2020 5:29 p.m. ET
Updated Oct. 25, 2020 1:55 p.m. ET

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MONTREAL -- The owners of a St-Leonard bakery are calling on the Quebec government to ease off on threats of fines for French language violations while businesses are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patisserie Italia was visited by Quebec’s French language watchdog the OQLF this week about signage that included words in English and Italian.

Owner Jackie Lancia said businesses need help from the government right now, not harassment.

“We’re all trying to make a dollar, we’re all trying to keep our employees and we don’t need this stress. We really don’t,” said Lancia.

She admitted her blackboards do have several English words on them such as “cheesecake” and “smoked meat” and she plans to change them, but for some Italian signage, like the word “espresso,” Lancia said the OQLF are going too far.

“He really picked on Granita,” says Lancia. “I said to him 'That’s an Italian brand, you know, it’s an ice cream.'”

A customer inside the bakery said there’s a cultural clash exacerbated by the OQLF.

“I don’t think we can ask people to call espresso something else than it is,” the client told CTV News. “Espresso is something imported from Italy. Granita is the same thing, so how do you want us to change that culture to French?”

The OQLF was given a $5 million budget increase this spring to hire more officers to enforce the French language charter.

But Lancia said during this difficult time, the government has its priorities all wrong.

“We’re all struggling, businesses, I mean our sales have dropped so much,” she said. “And you get funds for this? Come on. Give us a break, give business people a break.”

The OQLF said that when it receives a complaint, it carries out an inspection to see if the complaint is warranted.

The office then contacts the company to inform the owners.

"If a violation of the Charter is found, the office will initiate discussions with the company in order to support it, in particular in setting up a correction schedule and through its efforts to comply with the law," read an emailed statement from Chantal Bouchard of the OQLF.

"The courts impose the fines, if any, not the agency."

Bouchard confirmed that the OQLF received a complaint about Patisserie-Boulangerie Italia's indoor and outdoor signage and an inspector visited the bakery.

"During the inspection, the inspector informed the owner of the subject of the complaint and answered her questions," said Bouchard. "A company's public signage must be in French. It can also be in another language, provided that French is clearly predominant." 

Lancia said she’ll be given a list of changes to make and if she doesnt comply, may face fines.


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