"the controversy over language in Canada underscores the power of society to turn any population characteristic into a sign of difference, from which prejudice and discrimination often follow." This week the Economist reminded us of the truth in this statement:
Quebec has strict language laws, zealously enforced by the OQLF [Office québecoise de la langue française0. One statute makes French the "normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business". It also authorises the OQLF to "act on its own initiative or following the filing of a complaint".In other words, the OQLF is the language police.
Just ask Xavier Ménard. Mr Ménard wanted to list his firm with the province's company registrar but was rejected. The reason? His company's name, Wellarc, sounds too English. Mr Menard's protestations that it is a portmanteau of the French words web, langage, logo,artistique and compagnie fell on deaf ears. Such misplaced verbal intransigence last week prompted Mr Ménard to vent his frustration on YouTube (in French). The video has gone viral.This issue has come to the forefront because the current ruling party in Quebec is the Parti Québécois (PQ):
In 1976, when the PQ, which is responsible for the linguistic legislation, first came to power, around 800,000 of Quebec's 6.2m people were English-speakers. By 2011 that fell to fewer than 600,000, even as the province's population rose to 8m.This is very reminiscent of the insidious ways by which Latinos are being intimidated in North Carolina, as my son, Greg Weeks, noted a few days ago in his blog.