In Quebec, Canada’s French-speaking province, there exists a team of men and women wandering around with cameras, snapping photographs of shop signs and restaurant menus. Their purpose? To make sure that the French language remains predominant over the English Language in all aspects of daily life. Their presence has caused confusion, destroyed the identity of businesses and has resulted in Anglophones fleeing the province en masse. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Office Québécois de la Langue Française (OQLF), and they suck balls.
The OQLF’s Purpose
A OQLF henchwench doing her bit for the Quebecois economy.
The Office québécois de la langue française, also known as the Quebec Board of the French Language in the English language, is a public body established in March 1961 by the province’s premier at the time, Jean Lesage. This publicly-funded office was founded on the following principles:
■ to align on international French; meaning that the OQLF wish to promote Standard French as a norm.
■ promote “good Canadianisms”; in other words, the use of “good” slang terms, not those that are obscene or vulgar.
■ to fight “Anglicisms”; objecting against the use of words peculiar to British English, or borrowed from the English language.
The organisation in essence is designed to counter the advancement of English as an international lingua-franca. With the United States as a superpower, and the more economically prosperous Anglophone Canada dominating the nation’s power base, Quebec felt, and still to a large extent feels cornered. The establishment of the OQLF in the province of Quebec is not only defensive, but to an extent, quite regressive to internationalism. The French language was once the dialect of diplomacy and mediation, but has been supplanted by English for as long as the United States has been a superpower.
OQLF: French Vs. English
The OQLF is housed in the stunning former École des beaux-arts de Montréal building (School of the Fine Arts)
The OQLF has had the misfortune of entering the Canadian lexicon as a group fanatical and uncompromising in their war against the English language in Quebec. From their headquarters in downtown Montreal, they actively send out teams of photographers to snap pictures of business signs, restaurant menus and other ‘words’ to ensure that French is displayed alongside English. It does however, go slightly further than this as a OQLF diktat mandates that French text must be at least 3 times larger than the English equivalent; just in case a non-Anglophone Quebecois doesn’t see it..
Examples of the OQLF are both humorous and tragic on equal levels. Perhaps the most famous example was the illustrious “Pastagate” incident in 2013. On February 14th, a OQLF “inspector” sent a letter to Buonanotte, an up-market Italian restaurant in Montreal complaining that mainstay Italian words such as “pasta” and “calamari” should be replaced with their French equivalent “pâtes” and “calamars” respectively. Rather than complying with the OQLF’s demands, the manager of Buonanotte went to the media and the incident caused a great deal of outcry in Quebec and nationally, severely damaging the reputation of the OQLF and sparking the resignation of its director, Louise Marchard.
OQLF Against Culture
“Buon Appetito.. Oops, I meant to say mangez vos pâtes pour la fierté québécoise..”
In another fine example of cultural genocide, the OQLF went after the British too, perhaps out of revenge for distributing the language globally back in the day. Also based in Montreal, Brit and Chips served your usually English grub such as fish and chips, mushy peas, deep fried “whatever”, and scotch eggs, yet this exotic menu and it’s naming conventions upset the OQLF following a complaint from the public. Thus, they mandated that fish and chips be renamed to “poisson frit et frites”, as to do otherwise would be encouraging evil Anglicisms. It was these evil Anglicisms however, that allowed restaurants such as Brit and Chips to maintain their identities as ethnic cuisine from other countries, just as “Pastagate” proved as well.
The OQLF’s Power
Alright geezer? How many farthings for a poisson frit et frites guvner?
The assertion of one culture, one language and one identity as being superior over other identities reminds us of two historical and contemporary anomalies. The first of which are the Saudi “religious police”; also known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), those duty is it to enforce strict dress codes, the segregation of men and women, as well to warn and shut down businesses that do not comply with Islamic morals and culture. Therefore, the role of the CPVPV is to repel encroachment from liberal values that exists outside Saudi Arabia and vigorously defend their own “virtues” through legal enforcement… sounds awfully similar to the OQFL right?
The second such example is that of apartheid South Africa, in which an Afrikaner nationalist government attempted to overhaul the entire education system through the 1974 Afrikaans Language Decree, which mandated that all black schoolchildren would be taught in Afrikaans as an education medium; leading to the Soweto Uprising. In this case, a government was openly disregarding the cultures and practices of other ethnic groups in favor of the Afrikaans language; or in Quebec’s case, the OQFL (propped up by the Parti Québécois) is openly disregarding the cultures and practices of other ethnic groups in favor of French language.
A Canadian Embarassment?
To be regressive, protectionist and isolationist in an otherwise progressive nation such as Canada is quite frankly, embarrassing. It makes the the OQFL look as backward as the Saudi “religious police”, and as out of date as South Africa’s former ruling National Party. As long as globalism continues on it’s course, and multiculturalism continues to de-homogenize large parts of the world, the OQFL will cease to exist in the near future.
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