Welcome To The Bitchery

Quebec Language Policy And Social Media

Eva Cooper, a small business owner, is getting into hot water over her business's English Facebook page.

Cooper's boutique shop in Chelsea, Quebec, is just a 20 minute drive north of Ottawa. Nonetheless, Quebec's language agency, Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) has put her on notice, warning that if she didn't translate her Facebook page to French she could be looking at a fine.


As a precedent, a smokehouse also in Chelsea was told to change their website to French back in 2011. Of course, translating a website is much different than translating content on social media platforms. As Cooper points out, "would I be able to do my text in English on (Pinterest or) Twitter?". One could imagine the spirit lost in translating 140 characters from English to French, or vice versa. Not only would this be an inconvenience to the business, it could have dramatic affects on marketing efforts - crucial to small businesses who can't often afford dedicated marketing departments.

It's understandable why Quebec is guarded about their language and culture policy, as they are essentially a linguistic island, surrounded by Anglophones or more recent non-Franco/Anglo Canadians. Even in many communities in Ontario within a kilometer or two of the Quebec-Ontario border show no signs of French culture or bilingualism. The goal of promoting Quebec French as the primary language is not without its problems, though is honourable at the core. The problem is with extending it into modern real world scenarios

Sylvia Martin-Laforge, director general of the Quebec Community Groups Network, representing 41 English organizations, argues that in this case, Eva Cooper's business Facebook page is small potatoes. "She's in Chelsea, (her Facebook page) has only 602 likes. There is no gravity to this. This is ridiculous," said Martin-Laforge.

Is it fair to force small businesses to comply with these laws that might cause them undue hardship, or is the community better served when laws are applied evenly, without exception?

Share This Story