POINTE-CLAIRE – Quebec pastry shop owner Harry Schick is considered somewhat of a local hero on the West Island of Montreal.
Not only did he create an extra-creamy pasta salad called the “Marois” to poke fun at the Parti Quebecois government and its strict language laws, he’s also known as someone who never gives up.
For decades, the merchant has been fighting to keep the signs outside his shop, Swiss Vienna Pastry, bilingual.
“They’re saying that the French should be three times the size of the English and I’m saying that English and French are one of equal importance to me. They have the same rights,” Schick told Global News.
In another more recent beef with the Office Langue Française, an inspector showed up to the store asking permission to take photos of the illegal signs.
Schick’s reaction? “I promptly asked him to leave, which he did, and on his way out he told me, ‘I’ll be back.’”
Schick is not alone in his battle: his customers have been standing by his side since day one.
On Sunday, the English-rights group, Unity, offered its support. They organized a lunch rally at the pastry shop to denounce the PQ government’s proposed Bill 14, which introduces changes to Quebec’s language laws.
To find out more about Bill 14, click here.
Unity spokesperson Antoinette Mercurio said, “If other people start doing this, start standing up for their rights and say ‘I will post bilingual signs,’ maybe people will start and we can put an end to Bill 14.”
If the Marois government’s proposed beefed-up language law passes, businesses with between 29 and 50 employees must make French the main language used at work.
Schick says he just wants to be able to cater to the needs of all his customers and that’s why the word ‘welcome’ is featured in the front window of his store in 35 different languages.
“In the store there’s at least six to seven languages that we could use to talk to our customers, so it’s not a question of just English or French. Let me treat my customers properly.”
At the rally on Sunday was Beryl Wajsman, who recently presented a brief at the Bill 14 hearings, defending human rights. He said that more people should follow in Schick’s footsteps if they hope to see change.
“It’s the power of one. One person starts. Two people have the courage, then it’s four, then it’s eight. Then you can’t stop it. Just say no.”
But Brent Tyler, a lawyer who’s been working on a number of cases against the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), noted that refusing to comply with the government department requests may not be good for business.
“Once a judgement is obtained, the government can seize property and seize bank accounts, if they want to go that far,” he explained.
Nevertheless, Schick said that he will not be stopped.
“My signs have been up since 1976, god willing they’ll be up for as long as I’m around.”
© Shaw Media, 2013