CHELSEA, Que – For Eva Cooper, customer service is priority number one.
For a boutique owner in the Ottawa area that means one thing: serving your customers in both official languages.
Cooper has always believed she was doing a good job, until she got a letter last week from the Office québécois de la langue française, Quebec’s so-called “language police.”
The agency ordered her to make changes to her store’s Facebook page, where the posts are primarily written in English.
“My reaction was ‘Oh my goodness, what can of worms is this going to open?'” Cooper told Global News.
Cooper runs two stores: one in the Ottawa area, and the other in nearby Chelsea, Quebec.
The fact that one of her stores is in Quebec means that she must follow the province’s language laws.
According to article 52 of the French language charter, all store brochures, pamphlets and “other publications” must be in French.
OQLF spokesperson Jean-Pierre Le Blanc told Global News that this also includes social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
“We have jurisprudence that also includes the services offered on websites and on social media,” Le Blanc said.
But English-rights activist Beryl Wajsman is concerned that this order creates a dangerous precedent.
“Where do we go from here?” he said.
“The logical conclusion is that Quebec is ready to ban Facebook like China bans internet use.”
Last month, CJAD radio talk show host Dan Delmar also received a warning letter from the OQLF.
He operates a public relations firm called Provocateur Communications.
After receiving the notice, Delmar agreed to make changes to his English-only website, but he said the OQLF is harming itself by nit-picking and attacking small businesses.
“From my perspective, it seems like they are completely improvising and trying to justify their existence,” Delmar said.
Back in Ottawa, Eva Cooper is debating her next move.
She has about two weeks to comply to the government order or face fines.
Cooper is not interested in a big court challenge, but she wishes that the OQLF would give her a break.
“I think Canadians have bigger problems and issues that they want our governments to address.”
© 2014 Shaw Media