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Viewer denounces TV ads promoting French language as ‘discriminatory’

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Montreal viewer insulted over controversial advocacy ad pushing French – Nov 2, 2021

A television advertisement promoting learning French is being labelled as discriminatory towards Anglophones.

The ad, which aired on the CBC, caught the eye of Quebecer Robert Morrison, an avid viewer.

“It was basically making fun of someone who didn’t speak French, so it made me quite perturbed,” Morrison told Global News.

The ad shows a man surrounded by people speaking French, looking lost. When he is asked a question in French, the man replied, “I don’t understand.”

Read more: Quebec’s overhaul of its strict French language law under microscope at Bill 96 hearings

Another ad shows a woman in an elevator acting dismissive towards someone who asks her in French what floor she wants to go to.

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The English-speaking woman says “sorry” and proceeds to push the elevator button herself.

“It basically belittled them and that I find quite shocking to see that in the air from a national broadcaster CBC,” Morrison, said.

Morrison, who is fully bilingual, believes the ad is discriminatory and should be taken off the air.

He says he reached out to the network’s ombudsman but didn’t get the result he was expecting.

“I got a response back from him that basically they had no control over the content of the ads that they post, so I found that quite shocking,” Morrison told Global News.

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Michael Farkas, president of the Black History Month’s roundtable agrees the ads are discriminatory and calls them “confusing and in bad taste.”

“One is full of hate…. between two Black men on top of that. Really, really weird,” Farkas observed. “And (there is) nothing to really push us to actually learn the language, to be proud of even attempting it or anything. Very discouraging.”

In the streets of Montreal, not everyone agrees.

“I don’t understand why people are upset with it,” said Ema Colombini, a French woman who recently moved from France.

“I don’t think so,” said Malek Toudge when asked if he thought the ads are discriminatory.

The ads were put together by Impératif Français, an organization which describes itself as a promoter of the French language and culture.

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The president of the organization, Jean-Paul Perreault, told Global News the ads aim to reach the most amount of people possible and disagreed with Morrison and Farkas’ views on the ads being discriminatory.

“This is the vision of the person who formulates it and not ours! And we let them! It’s this person who complains who sees what they want to see. And that belongs to them!!!” Perreault wrote in an email to Global News.

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Meanwhile, the CBC’s head of public affairs, Chuck Thompson, says that while they acknowledge the ad may not sit well with everyone, it is an advocacy ad that meets the Canadian broadcasting industry’s advertising codes as well as their own advertising standards.

“Beyond that, we took the additional step to place scheduling restrictions around this ad; it did not run directly adjacent to our News or Current Affairs content, so as not to imply an endorsement of the advertising message,” wrote Thompson in an email.

Morrison says he’s disappointed with the answer and if the network continues to run the ad, he will stop watching CBC.

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