Canadians for Language Fairness

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Thursday, February 21, 2103

Quebec - Laughing Stock Over Pasta War

Here is something that is burning up the wires - almost all the mainstream media has this item on their menu.  I think that the rabid French zealots in Quebec are their own worst enemies.  Having won the battle to force French into all facets of their community, making all public and private businesses accept French as their language of work and public discourse, they have now gone to the extreme and ridiculous.  Their battle with the large multinational companies to force them to change their names to French is still in the court:


To justify their existence, the Language police are now after small restaurants and small businesses that have no way of fighting back.  Most of them have complied but this is not enough - they are after TOTAL capitulation!!!  This is the kind of stupidity that makes the French the most unpopular group in Canada.


‘Pasta’ found in violation of Quebec laws as language police crackdown on Italian restaurant in Montreal

Tristin Hopper - National Post

An Italian restaurant in Montreal has found itself in the disapproving crosshairs of Quebec’s language police for using Italian names for dishes on its menu - despite the fact that French names for some of the dishes do not even exist.

“They told me ‘polpette’ [Italian meatball] should be ‘boulettes de viande,’ so I asked them what to call ‘insalata caprese,’” said Massimo Lecas, owner of the Buonanotte restaurant, referring to a southern Italian tomato and mozzarella salad.

“We’ve asked them what they would recommend, and they don’t even have answers,” he added. On Tuesday, Mr. Lecas received a detailed letter from the Office québécois de la langue française citing him in violation of the Charter of the French Language for peppering his menu with words such as “pasta,” “pesce,” “antipasti,” “calamari” and, on the wine list, the Italian word for “bottle.”

“My menu is completely French, what I have in Italian are the names of my dishes,” said Mr. Lecas. Each Italian name on the menu is also immediately followed by its French description. Below “insalata mista,” for instance, the dish is identified in French as a mixed salad.

Notably, the word “pizza” escaped the language office’s ire.

Martin Bergeron, spokesman for the office, said there are exceptions under the language law when there is no equivalent French term and if that’s the case the matter is usually dropped. Otherwise, French terms are preferred under the law.

Mr. Lecas said he still has to meet with the agency.

The news of the language agency’s intervention caused a storm on social media and Diane De Courcy, Quebec’s minister in charge of the language law, promised to look into the matter.

Meanwhile, Jean-Francois Lisée, the minister responsible for anglophones and Montreal, told CTV News that the language office’s concern over the use of the word pasta might be “overdone.”

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More than any other industry, the culinary world is awash with foreign words, many of them French, including “amuse-bouche,” “bouillon” and even the word “cuisine” itself.

In Calgary alone, at least 50 restaurants serve “poutine” rather than “cheese-and-gravy fries.”

Nevertheless, Quebec’s world-renowned restaurant scene has often been a target of Quebec language authorities.

In 2000, an Indian restaurateur was threatened with a $7,000 fine for giving customers cardboard coasters imprinted with the phrase “Canada’s No. 1 selling British ale.”

In 2005, Montreal’s Monkland Tavern was forced to spend $10,000 to add an ‘e’ to its vintage 1950s neon sign to make the name French.

And 10 years ago, when Quebec-born racing driver Jacques Villeneuve opened a nightspot named “Newtown,” a direct English translation of his last name, Quebec’s language authorities received ample complaints about the name - but it was exempt because it was a registered trademark.

Language enforcement in Quebec is heavily complaint-driven, and Mr. Lecas’ episode began with a September visit from a language inspector who arrived after the office was contacted by an anonymous complainant.

The spectre of a language violation has resulted in plenty of oddly homogeneous menus in Quebec.

At Montreal’s Restaurant Alpenhaus, the only German word on the menu is strudel - and even there, the proprietors have made sure to put the word in quotation marks.

Nevertheless, down the street from Buonanotte, the Spanish restaurant La Sala Rosa freely serves up “calamares,” “chorizo” and “ensalada.” And at Au Petit Extra, a French bistro just south of Parc Lafontaine, diners can order a “cocktail”- a word of conspicuously English origin.

“Let’s look at the big picture here, you walk into an Italian restaurant and you validate its authenticity by how much they know of Italian culture,” said Mr. Lecas.

“The more you’re surrounded by it, the more you can feel like you’re in Florence: The waiter has an Italian accent, a family member is in the kitchen making the gnocchi - where is all of that in this conversation?”

As one supporter noted on Mr. Lecas’ Twitter feed on Wednesday, Quebec language authorities have yet to crack down on Montreal’s many sushi restaurants for not advertising their product as “poisson cru variées sur boule de riz.”


Quebec language police to reconsider case against Italian eatery - MSN


Here is the owner of the Italian Restaurant being interviewed by CTV:


Quebec language cops target 'pasta' - Toronto Sun

The Toronto Sun has a poll that registers the displeasure of their readers with the language laws which seem to have no end in sight:


Are Quebec language laws too strict?

·         95%

·         Yes, they need to be changed 2938 votes

·         2%

·         Sometimes

·         64 votes

·         2%

·         No, they're fine

·         65 votes


From the Canadian Press

Quebec language cops say there is too much Italian on Italian restaurant’s menu

The Office Québécois de la langue française has warned a Montreal restaurant owner there’s too much Italian on the menu of his Italian restaurant.


Massimo Lecas, co-owner of buonanotte restaurant, shows the menu at the restaurant in Montreal that led to a warning from the Office Qu?b?cois de la langue fran?aise. Lecas says some dish titles are in Italian but otherwise the menus are in French.

MONTREAL-Mamma Mia! The word “pasta” is a little too Italian for Quebec’s language cops. They’d prefer something more in the language of Moliere than Michaelangelo when it comes to menus, even in Italian restaurants.

“Pasta” wasn’t the only word that left a sour taste when they recently chewed over the menu at Buonanotte, a trendy Italian restaurant in Montreal. There were several other words that didn’t have enough of a French flavour for the Office Québécois de la langue française.

For example, the agency says “bottiglia,” which is Italian for bottle, should be “bouteille” on the wine list. Using “calamari” instead of the French word for squid is also a little fishy. The restaurant’s owner couldn’t believe it when he got a letter from the agency pointing out the transgressions.

“We were taken aback by it,” said Buonanotte owner Massimo Lecas on Wednesday. Buonanotte is a high-profile Montreal eatery that has catered to a host of sports and entertainment stars including Maurice (Rocket) Richard, Céline Dion, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Brian Mulroney have also dined there but it wasn’t immediately clear if Premier Pauline Marois has ever been a customer. It also has a restaurant in Toronto under the same name.

Controversy was the flavour of the day Wednesday as people stewed on social media over the intervention from the Office inspectors, who were dubbed “tongue troopers” back in the darker days of Quebec’s language battles.

At least two Twitter trends, including one called “pastagate” were created where people left biting comments.

“There’s currently some beef between me and the PQ,” tweeted Quebec Pasta. The Office recently received a 6 per cent budget increase for this year, following a flare-up in political attention paid to language. The PQ drove much of that discussion while in opposition, and has tabled a new language law in office although the legislation is milder than expected.

The Office budget now stands at $24.7 million.

But on Wednesday, even the Parti Quebecois suggested the agency had gone too far. Diane De Courcy, the minister responsible for the language law, tweeted that she was “amazed” at the situation: “I’m going to have someone look into this to see what happened,” she also told reporters in Quebec City.

The PQ minister responsible for Montreal, Jean-Francois Lisee, said with a chuckle: “I think it’s overdone. I’ll have a chat with Mme De Courcy about that.” Martin Bergeron, a spokesman with the Office, said in an interview that he was surprised by the “intensity” of the online outrage.

“But I can understand that from the social media point of view, the word that got out is that the Office went out for only one word,” he said. “It would be nonsense and that’s how it’s looked at.”

Bergeron said the agency challenged the use of more than the word “pasta” and that it will work with the owner of the restaurant to resolve the matter. Lecas said his restaurant hasn’t had a language complaint in the 22 years it’s been open and he’s handling the controversy with a sense of humour.

“We’ve all had bigger battles,” he said. “It’s not something that I know is a life or death situation. It’s something that we’ll handle.” Lecas did lament that the brouhaha seemed to be reflective of current language tensions in the province that followed vows by the PQ to toughen laws.

Ironically, the saga started the day after the Sept. 4 election when the PQ won a minority government. Lecas said the language agency asked for a copy of his menu because it had received a complaint from a customer and he sent them one. “I was like, ‘No problem’,” he said in recalling the request. “My menu is fully French. It’s not even bilingual. I gave them everything.”

On Tuesday, he got their reply. There were several Italian words they were hungry to translate to French on the menu to make it comply to the requirements of the Quebec Charter of the French Language, which says French must be predominant.

Bergeron insisted that while the word “pasta” has been painted as the culprit in social media, the agency would not go after a business for a single word. “We would not act on a complaint like that,” he said.

Bergeron said the law is flexible when it comes to foreign words with no French-language equivalent. “There are exceptions in the law when we are talking about exotic dishes or specialty names,” Bergeron said. “If there is no infraction because there is an exception in the law, then we will drop the matter.”

He said the next step is to talk to the business owner and see what can be done to resolve the situation. Bergeron said the agency was far from talking about penalties because most of the time an accommodation is reached. Fines, however, can range between $1,500 and $20,000.

Buonanotte wasn’t the only eatery to get the Office’s attention recently.

CTV Montreal reported that the Brit and Chips restaurant was told to change its menu listings in English, including switching the name of its trademark dish to “poisson frit et frites.” The owner told CTV that he understood the reason for the language laws, and would comply with them, but he could not change the name because he said it would kill his business.

(we Canadians have been worried about Quebec leaving the country.  However, maybe it’s time we encouraged them to leave?!)

President (CLF)


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