Days after the National Assembly passed a unanimous motion urging merchants to greet customers with a unilingual “bonjour” the issue is still creating consternation in Quebec.
On Wednesday, Minister for Anglophones Kathleen Weil said she understood the outrage the motion has created among the anglophone community where people feel that, once again, the provincial government does not want them to use their mother tongue in public.
“The reaction is strong, very strong,” said Weil. “They find it insulting.”
Weil said that many of the people calling her office, and the offices of two other anglophone MNAs, failed to realize that the motion has no legal weight.
Weil also pointed out that the Liberal government opposed the initial motion presented by the Parti Quebecois where the word “hi” was described as “an irritant.”
“The final message, though, is only positive,” because the Liberals insisted that any denigration of the English language be removed.
“But people are calling us saying what are you doing in the National Assembly, you have so many other problems in health care, in education, what are you doing wasting your time with this,” said Weil..
When French-language reporters asked why anglophones were so upset, Weil explained that anglophones were offended by the idea that certain PQ MNAs, and the Liberal Minister for Culture Marie Montpetit, found hearing English to be “shocking.”
“I understand the anglophone reaction. And I’m telling you that ‘bonjour/hi,’ because I’m in Montreal often, I see that as a term of respect,” Weil told reporters in Quebec City.
Weil said that people in the metropolis, where the shrunken anglophone population is centred, know some people wish to speak their native language and others want to practice a second language.
On Tuesday Weil gave CTV News an exclusive interview where she was trying to control the damage of last week’s symbolic motion.
That hasn’t stopped many people in Quebec from being confused about the issue, with retail staff telling CTV that some customers have told them — wrongly — that speaking in English in stores is forbidden by law.
“It’s petty politics too, at the same time. It’s petty politics for [PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisée] to have even brought this thing forward to score some points on where he stands on language, on an issue like ‘bonjour/hi.’ I think that’s what struck the world,” she said.
The motion passed by the National Assembly
Whereas the National Assembly clearly reaffirms to all that French is the official and common language of Quebec;
Whereas we note that 94 percent of Quebec residents understand French;
Whereas we note that the word” Bonjour “is one of the most well-known words of the French language among non-French speakers in the world;
Whereas this word is a wonderful expression of Quebec conviviality;
Therefore, we invite all merchants and employees who are in contact with local and international customers to warmly welcome them with the word Bonjour.
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