French language: let’s work to ensure that the new rules reinforce rather than limit - Retail Council of Canada
Articles | French language | Quebec

French language: let’s work to ensure that the new rules reinforce rather than limit

April 20, 2024

We represent thousands of businesses, manufacturers, creators of wealth who meet the essential needs of Quebec population on a daily basis.

In the face of challenges such as labor shortages, strained supply chains, rising operational costs, continuous innovations, and evolving needs, we are committed to maintaining high quality across all of our operations. We also share a strong commitment to the protection and promotion of French as the language of business and communications in Quebec.

Over the past few years, our organizations have constantly strived to develop various initiatives aimed not only at strengthening the French language, but also at encouraging exchanges with other Francophone countries and entities. We have intensified the use of francization tools and have regularly recognized and rewarded companies that are committed to promoting high-quality French.

In fact, recent data from the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) indicate that French is doing as well overall, if not better in many respects, than it was 15 years ago – particularly in Montreal. We should be happy and encouraged by this.

However, we wish to express our serious concerns about the recent measures proposed by the government to strengthen its use. Indeed, the proposed obligations would have a limited impact on the quality and sustainability of the French language, while posing disproportionate challenges to our businesses and to Quebecers.

Towards major shortages

The current proposals, despite its good intentions, present us with a considerable dilemma. The proposed deadline for the implementation of the new rules is extremely short, and in many cases, impossible to meet. For example, by requiring that all devices that have not Frenchified the “on/off” button must stop being sold in Quebec within a few weeks. Not only are these rules cosmetic, but they might drastically limit the availability of essential products for Quebecers. Merchants will be forced to withdraw much of their inventory without access to adequate short-term replacements, or none at all.

A direct consequence would be a significant increase in online purchases from suppliers outside Quebec, where language requirements would not apply, and putting businesses operating in Quebec at a disadvantage. In addition to threatening Quebec’s economic vitality, this situation would ironically harm the visibility of French.

The complexity of signage requirements

In addition, the government is proposing new signage rules for businesses that will constitute a significant burden, especially considering that similar changes were already applied less than five years ago to strengthen the presence of French. Currently, these new requirements are expected to be applied quickly to thousands of businesses, with only a few months to comply. This haste stands in stark contrast to the government’s initial commitments in 2022 to promise a three-year deadline for the implementation of rules that, to date, have yet to be adopted. In addition, each business must ensure that any changes to signage comply with their municipal rules and, often, are validated by their property owner.

In addition, a large number of grey areas and inaccuracies suggest problems of interpretation, particularly with respect to trademarks, some of which are even from Quebec or France.

It is imperative that the government reflect on the real impact of these regulations not only on the French language, but also on the economic health of our businesses and the well-being of Quebecers. These measures, well intentioned for the preservation of our linguistic heritage, may actually harm those they seek to protect. We are confident that the government will recognize this in its current review.

Michel Rochette, President – Quebec

Conseil canadien du commerce de détail

Karl Blackburn, President and Chief Executive Officer

Conseil du patronat du Québec

Richard Darveau, President and Chief Executive Officer

Association québécoise de la quincaillerie et des matériaux de construction

Charles Milliard, President and Chief Executive Officer

Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec

Véronique Proulx, President and Chief Executive Officer

Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec

François Vincent, Vice-President – Quebec

Canadian Federation of Independent Business