Fortin responds to Journal’s request for help in language dispute

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Fred Ryan

Following the OQLF language police’s newest order that the Pontiac Journal reorganize its layout and its treatment of advertising, the co-publisher Lily Ryan requested the assistance of all Pontiac political officials, including Liberal MNA André Fortin. Mr Fortin replied in writing.

Fred Ryan

Following the OQLF language police’s newest order that the Pontiac Journal reorganize its layout and its treatment of advertising, the co-publisher Lily Ryan requested the assistance of all Pontiac political officials, including Liberal MNA André Fortin. Mr Fortin replied in writing.
Ms Ryan asked specifically if Mr Fortin would lobby for a broadening of the Liberal government’s interpretation of the word ‘section’, since the OQLF has demanded news and advertising be segregated into distinct “sections”. Their request is difficult, said Ms Ryan, because it adds exceptional organizational, time, and expense demands on this community paper, not to mention the negative impact it has on disseminating all the news to both language groups in the Journal’s readership.
 No French is fine: OQLF
Ryan has said the easiest way to fulfil the OQLF orders would be to eliminate French news entirely – which would in fact satisfy this government agency. She added that the Journal would fight such a
suggestion, since it is trying to serve the entire community in its accustomed bilingual manner. 
Mr Fortin replied that he has “been in contact” with the Minister responsible for the Office. He said, rather than fulfil Ms Ryan’s request that “sections” be broadened to allow the
co-habitation of all news and advertisements, that his
lobbying effort was to ask if the recent edition “is in
conformity with the law”; he also asked this judgement be made “rapidly”.
“That was not at all what we asked of our MNA,” remarked the surprised Ms Ryan. “We want an
intervention by this Liberal government, to demonstrate their support of the Anglophone minority, to allow the Pontiac community to maintain its only regional, fully bilingual, newspaper; this means
without interference and in a manner that allows us to generate the advertising revenue required for the paper to pay its twenty-some staffers and all other costs.”
To Mr Fortin’s many expressions of support for bilingualism, Ms Ryan replied that such support should extend from theory into real life and affect real decisions for this newspaper. She added:  “We really don’t need to be told again by the Minister that our paper does not fulfil all the OQLF’s interpretations of the law. That’s not what we asked of Mr Fortin. A review of the OQLF decision is what’s needed.”
Instead, it appears Mr Fortin thinks the burden should be on advertisers, especially those from Ontario who often prefer to use English only. In essence, said Ryan, this means telling our financial supporters that we will not accept their ads.  “That is hardly a helpful suggestion from the MNA; in fact, it seems an abdication of any desire to assist.”
In his defense, Mr Fortin wrote that the Liberal government is the best the Pontiac will get since the PQ wants to restrict even further the Anglophone minority. He added that what he is doing now is “awaiting a response” from the Minister.
Freedom of the press?
Finally, the MNA dismissed the Journal’s accusation that such threats (of fines up to $20,000) and such re-organizational demands have anything to do with “freedom of the press”. He wrote, “Freedom of the press is meant . . . freedom of reporting and editorial independence. (and that, translated here,) this situation has nothing to do with independence of thought”.
The co-publisher said she finds this “disingenuous”.  Press and thought are different, she said, and “any government action which prevents a newspaper from publishing – by excessive regulations, by fees and licenses, or any other means – is an attack on freedom of the press because if the press cannot publish, where is its freedom?”