OQLF update Journal’s language police issue goes to Minister

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Fred Ryan

Following the Journal’s report last issue that Pontiac’s MNA, André Fortin, had so far failed to address the Office quebeçoise de la langue française (OQLF)’s harassment of the Pontiac Journal for its layout practices, which occasionally mix languages, pure or in part, Mr Fortin has informed

Fred Ryan

Following the Journal’s report last issue that Pontiac’s MNA, André Fortin, had so far failed to address the Office quebeçoise de la langue française (OQLF)’s harassment of the Pontiac Journal for its layout practices, which occasionally mix languages, pure or in part, Mr Fortin has informed
co-publisher Lily Ryan that he has now written to the Minister responsible for the OQLF, Hélène David.
In response to Ms Ryan’s request that he “influence (other) decision-makers at any level on this issue” and that he ask for
clarity and finality in the OQLF’s re-interpretation of the regulations, Mr Fortin’s letter to to the minister assures her the Journal is trying to conform and wishes to have
confirmation that its new formatting is in accord with the code. He asked that the Journal receive “confirmation that the file will be closed and the enterprise can again concentrate on its principle mission”.
One complaint will do it
Ms Ryan had proposed that the OQLF’s complaints process, which triggers an
investigation, should be based on more than a single complaint with instead a threshold number of complaints required before an investigation is launched. Mr Fortin also conveyed this suggestion to the minister in his letter, adding that single complaints could come from misunderstandings or
personal grievances.
Ms Ryan emphasized that the Journal is not asking that the law be changed (“since that would take a decade”), but that “leniency (be shown) in the application of the interpretation of the law.” She told Mr Fortin, “We are tired of having the
newspaper examined with a fine-toothed comb”, and on the basis of,
presumably, a single complaint.
Austerity for the public,
not for language police?
The publisher expressed her puzzlement that in the midst of drastic cuts to health care, education, job creation, environment, forestry, and social services, the OQLF remains “handsomely funded” by the Liberal government.
“Our readers,” added Ms Ryan, wonder what the Liberals are going to do about the crisis in all these fields.  Mr Fortin did not respond to either of these questions.
As of this date, the publisher says she understands that the new Journal
“sections”, as demanded by the Office, conforms to the law.  She notes that the problem remains of having the code re-interpreted again, once the newspaper has complied.  She says she hopes the Minister will address this unfairness of procedure. She says it is too early to tell if the new
“segregated” format has harmed the Journal’s
advertising revenues, its only source of income.
Pontiac issue goes viral
Other community
newspapers across Quebec have expressed their alarm over the OQLF’s actions. 
A public rally at the OQFL Montreal offices took place June 5. Several publishers have pointed out to Ms Ryan that their papers, and others they read, all break this “language segregation” interpretation of the law, without any penalty or
consequence.
OQLF publishes
contradictory press release
On May 26, the OQLF issued a press release where they stated that they are (translation): “not forcing the division of a paper into distinct linguistic sections”.  However, continuing in the same document, they state (translation): “They can have publicity in the
language of their choice in the English section and publicity in French only or bilingual, with a predominance of French, in the French section.” 
To section or not to section, as well as a clear definition of the term “section” seem to be points about which the law is vague. This lack of clarity continues to be a production challenge for Journal staff.