The Quebec government is open to prohibiting the bilingual “Bonjour-Hi” greeting in businesses and government services as part of a larger effort to protect the French language in the province.
During a debate at the National Assembly on Friday, the minister responsible for the French language said the province is considering all options when it comes to safeguarding the language.
“We want the welcome of the people to be saying the word ‘bonjour’ so I’m working on that right now,” said Simon Jolin-Barrette.
The decline of French as the exclusive language of welcome in Montreal stores is what concerns Jolin-Barrette, who took over the language portfolio in September.
The Office québécois de la langue française, the province’s language watchdog, reported in April that English and bilingual greetings — such as “Bonjour-Hi” — are on the rise. The bilingual welcome is often used by salespeople and business owners in Montreal.
While previous debates over banning “Bonjour-Hi” have prompted criticism in the past, Jolin-Barrette contends it is an option he will mull over in the coming weeks.
“We are in a situation in North America that characterizes the Quebec society by the fact that we speak French,” said Jolin-Barrette. “And I know the tourists are happy to be welcomed by the word ‘bonjour.'”
The move comes as the Parti Québécois (PQ) called for a debate at the legislature in order to demand the government of Premier François Legault reopen Bill 101, the province’s landmark Charter of the French Language.
Bill 101 was adopted in 1977 in a bid to promote and protect the French language. The contentious legislation has shaped Quebec’s linguistic and cultural composition by making French the official language.
However, the PQ was quick to question Jolin-Barrette’s proposition — saying prohibiting the bilingual greeting isn’t feasible.
“I don’t think it’s even possible to force the private sector and private businesses to use a certain language,” said Joël Arseneau, the party’s critic for the French language portfolio.
Geoffrey Chambers, Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) President thinks its a tactic to provoke Anglophones.
“Just to pick a fight with the minority language community,” said Chambers. “I mean we’re all in favour of protecting the French language but suppressing English it’s just crazy.”
Ziggy Eichenbaum, owner of Ziggy’s Pub believes the greeting is an important part of Montreal’s charm.
“I don’t even care if it both languages,” said Eichenbaum. “It’s just nice, it has a ring to it — the tourists love it.”
— With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher, Gloria Henriquez and the Canadian Press