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Quebec won’t legislate a ban on ‘bonjour-hi’ greeting

Quebec backtracks on plans to ban ‘Bonjour-Hi’
WATCH: The Quebec government is re-thinking plans to legislate the popular "bonjour-hi" greeting, saying that it will encourage the use of a unilingual French greeting instead. As Global's Gloria Henriquez explains, the change of heart comes on the heels of a new poll which suggests the majority of Quebecers think of Montreal as a bilingual city.

The Quebec government insists it has no plans to legislate an official ban on the popular greeting, “bonjour-hi.”

This comes after Quebec’s minister responsible for the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said in the national assembly on Friday that the province was thinking about prohibiting the greeting.

READ MORE: Most Montrealers believe they live in a bilingual city: survey

“I didn’t change position. Friday, I said I was (reflecting) and everything is on the table. I (clarified) this morning that we will not pass a bill about the ‘bonjour-hi’ question,” he argued Monday.

“I did not change positions and Quebec government did not change its position.”

He argued he was building on two unanimous motions passed in the legislature asking store clerks to stick with a simple “bonjour” when greeting customers.

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Quebec considers ban on popular “Bonjour-Hi” greeting
Quebec considers ban on popular “Bonjour-Hi” greeting

Jolin-Barrette insisted that “tourists love to be greeted in French, an international language.”

“People should welcome the tourists or people that come into the store by the word ‘bonjour,’ but we will not pass a law about ‘bonjour-hi,'” he insisted.

READ MORE: French language use in the workplace is on the decline — OQLF report

The bilingual phrase has been widely adopted by retail workers in an effort to welcome a diverse clientele, but it has also been a source of controversy among those who fear the French language is in danger.

Jolin-Barrette also applauded the work of the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) for the “good work” they have done with different companies to protect the French language.

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The minister said he hopes to use “incentives” to encourage people to use a French-only greeting in stores, but could not say what exactly they would be.

Christopher Skeete, the parliamentary assistant to the premier for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, commended the move not to ban the bilingual greeting in the private sector.

“I’ve been in contact with different groups within the government in terms of the administration of the government to let them know a little bit what I thought, and I think ultimately the premier was right to suggest that we don’t legislate in terms of the private citizens.”

Re-opening the “Bonjour-Hi” debate
Re-opening the “Bonjour-Hi” debate

In a recent survey conducted by the Association for Canadian Studies, the majority of Montrealers — as well as Quebecers living in other parts of the province — believe Montreal is a bilingual city.

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In the entire province, 76.6 per cent of respondents agreed that Montreal is a bilingual city.

READ MORE: Quebec language watchdog tells Lachute hospital its English signs must go

“The charter of the City of Montreal says Montreal is a French city,” he stated blankly, responding to a question about the survey.

“The City of Montreal is a French city. We have to be proud of that, really proud of that because here in North America, it’s the biggest French city.”

He cited a recent study by Quebec’s language watchdog that suggested the use of bilingual greetings was increasing and that’s why language laws need to be strengthened.

‘Bonjour-Hi’ gaining ground in Montreal
‘Bonjour-Hi’ gaining ground in Montreal

The OQLF found that between 2010 and 2017, use of “bonjour-hi” in Montreal doubled, representing eight per cent of all greetings in 2017. Exclusively English greetings also increased, occurring 17 per cent of the time in 2017, up from 12 per cent in 2010, according to the OQLF.

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French greetings remained the norm, but they were down to 75 per cent from 84 per cent over the same period.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

— With files from Global News’ Shakti Langlois-Ortega and the Canadian Press