Segregation ordered by language police

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Journal staff

Negotiations between the Quebec government’s Office de la langue française (OLF) and the Pontiac Journal came apart April 16, with a legal

Journal staff

Negotiations between the Quebec government’s Office de la langue française (OLF) and the Pontiac Journal came apart April 16, with a legal
injunction issued to the bilingual newspaper. The court order requires the Pontiac Journal to separate English pages and French pages, to comply with the Charter de la langue française. This charter is the set of laws that, among other things, govern
publishing and signage in Quebec.
The Pontiac Journal falls under Articles 58 and 59 of the charter because it is a newspaper published in Quebec in French and another language. These articles, plus a precedent set in 2006 and 2007 when Nightlife Magazine contested a similar OLF crack-down about bilingual
publishing, mean that the Pontiac Journal must separate English and French content pages into two distinct sections. The bilingual pages are facing no change, at this time. 
The story so far
The first order came from the OLF in February, 2012, warning the Pontiac Journal to “comply with the law”. The publisher, Lily Ryan, commenced a long discussion process with the representative of the OLF about the interpretation of the law. The OLF agents have legal authority to interpret the law, even if the business in question understands the words in a more precise way. “I use the term negotiations because the Charter has two very short and very vague paragraphs about bilingual publishing,” said publisher Lily Ryan. “English-only ads and articles are permitted in a French or in a bilingual
publication, so long as they are isolated into their
sections, says the law. We have every intention of
following the law – but the law on the books, not someone’s shifting interpretation of the word ‘sections’.”
By September, 2013, the OLF advised the Journal
it could publish English ads on English pages only, and this towards the back of the paper, separated from the French content, unlike the normal use of “sections”, throughout any issue.  Said Ms Ryan, “We found the OLF was re-interpreting the law and now required all English-only content in one single section, at the back of the paper.” 
Heart of the matter
“This ruling negates the Journal’s ability to reflect our community and our mandate to foster unity and pride in our bilingual
community,” adds Fred Ryan, former publisher. “Other publishers have advised we merely end our French language reporting in order to comply with the OLF. Thus, the OLF is directly damaging the Francophone community in the Pontiac. We do not intend to do this, but we cannot afford to fight the government of Québec either.”  Ryan says this issue cuts to the heart of the purpose of a newspaper, and, hence, is an assault on freedom of the press.
“Pontiac is a place where languages are not a divisive factor,” said Journal du Pontiac general manager, Lynne Lavery. “We have a deep respect for culture and diversity; this newspaper is at
the heart of bilingualism here. No one understands
why the OLF would
arbitrarily create a separation in the paper that is not part of our reality.” 
“It is as if the OLF wishes to erect barriers between Pontiac’s French and English speakers, or wishes to remove all Francophone news reporting in Pontiac,” adds Ms Ryan. “We are
surprised that the new Liberal government agrees with such a retrograde and divisive position.”
Alternatives?
Pontiac has a bilingual newspaper that is delivered to every home for free. 
If the paper were to drop French
altogether, one option, according to Ms Ryan, the law would be followed because publications in just one language are
permitted. “We wouldn’t do that, Francophones appreciate the newspaper just like everyone else – there really is no other paper for all residents here.”
The first edition in May will carry all news as usual, but divided up into
language “sections”, and those dependent upon advertiser support. Readers will find the same amount of news as in the past, notes Ms Ryan, but differently arranged in the paper.
However the Journal is asking for
public support for its request to be allowed to reflect its community. Letters and other communications should be sent to the Journal, the OLF, and to the region’s MNAs, especially André Fortin who represents the Pontiac.
Pontiac Journal:
editor@journalpontiac.com;
Fax: 819 683-2977
MNA André Fortin: Andre.Fortin.PONT@assnat.qc.ca; FAX: 819 648-2448
Office de la langue française:
Tel: 888-873-6202: Fax: 514 873-3488