Number of complaints to language police soar
Last updated Jan 6 2006 04:25 PM EST
Quebecers are increasingly concerned about the status of the French language, according to complaints to the government's language agency.
The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), which enforces Quebec's language laws, received a record 4,014 complaints in 2004-05, up from 2,591 in 2003-04.
Officials said most complaints involved problems with labelling of consumer products.
The figures show efforts to strengthen French in Quebec are under pressure, said Jean-Paul Perreault, president of Imperative French, an organization that defends the language.
The level was unprecedented and will probably be surpassed in 2005-06, an OQLF spokesperson said.
The Outaouais region in western Quebec reported the worst statistics, with complaints jumping to 711 from 196.
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The OQLF regulates the rules under Bill 101, the Quebec language law intended to strengthen French by limiting the use of English.
In late 2004, the office warned that English was gaining ground in Quebec partly because English was the language of choice for more than half of immigrants to the province.
International companies mostly to blame
"Most of the complaints concern inscriptions on products where people say there's either absence of French or the quality of French is so poor that you have to read the English version," said Gérald Paquette, OQLF spokesperson.
Paquette says this is due mostly to where the products are manufactured.
Companies in the United States and Asia don't always respect or understand Quebec's language laws, he said. But computer-generated translations lead to major errors, too, he said.
"You have a translation that says 'Safe for children'. And in French they will have 'coffre fort pour enfant.' Well coffre fort means the safe — where you put your jewels," Paquette explains.
But not all the complaints coming in are errors.
Paquette says about 40 companies investigated last year were protesting against the language laws.
He says they were mostly based near the Quebec-Ontario border where he says the English influence is more prominent.