Cutting off our tongue to spite our face?

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Social media websites are about the free exchange of thoughts and passions between individuals. What about      businesses that have a Facebook page? Are they allowed the same expression and do their pages have an official language?

Social media websites are about the free exchange of thoughts and passions between individuals. What about      businesses that have a Facebook page? Are they allowed the same expression and do their pages have an official language?
Eva Cooper owns a small business named Delilah in the Parc in old Chelsea, QC, with a     sister store in Ottawa. Cooper was delivered a letter from the Office Quebecois de la langue français saying the store’s Facebook page could no longer make posts solely in English or she would face a fine.
The news shocked           merchants who see social media sites as a global village beyond the scope of Quebec’s language police. Bill 101 in Quebec states catalogues, brochures and similar publications published by a business must be in French, including websites. “It’s a commercial page and not just a page for conversation,” said OQLF spokesperson, Jean-Pierre Le Blanc, referring to Cooper’s   situation.
Funny enough, the Quebec government office in New York City has a Facebook page where posts are often made in English without translation. Did this page slip beneath the radar because it is ‘located’ outside Quebec? Clearly it is directed toward the Quebec people!
After a huge backlash, the language office backed down. But have language laws gone too far in attempting to police Facebook? Other complaints against two hospital workers in Montreal who were speaking Creole on their own time, and a restaurant that used the word ‘pasta’ on their otherwise French menu have also made headline news in the past.
Cooper’s case has created   a debate about whether Facebook pages fall under the jurisdiction of language laws, creating tension between the Francophone and Anglophone populations. Provincial Health Minister, Réjean Hébert, said tension among those groups is inevitable and there isn’t much the government can do about it. So which came first, the chicken or the egg?
But isn’t hostility encouraged when the government or the language office cracks down on something as minor as a Facebook page or an English word on a menu?
Yes the French language is important, as is preserving our identity as a French-speaking province. But outlawing the English language is not the way to do it.
While many countries enrich themselves by learning multiple languages, Quebec is fighting to narrow our       learning. This narrow-mindedness is not the way to make people appreciate the French language. Appreciation is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of something. When people are forced to assimilate to a culture, it causes resentment, and    resistance. Forcing someone to use a particular language and punishing them when they don’t actually makes them want to use it less.
To promote appreciation for the French language, the government should treat Quebec as a bilingual province, where residents are encouraged to speak both    languages and each language is treated equally. Multiculturalism promotes peace and harmony. Multiculturalism is progress; assimilation is suppression.

Allyson Beauregard, Editor