Several shops owners in Montreal West were perplexed this week after a man claiming to be connected with the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) dropped in for a surprise visit.
Julie Pederson, owner of Totem Thé et Épices tea shop, said a man who told her he was with the OQLF came into her store, sat down, pulled out some forms and started asking her a series of questions about employees, computers and the use of French in her store.
"I just took him at his word and believed that he was the real thing. But now I'm wondering whether he was with the OQLF, or if he was a person who was maybe going to cause some trouble or report me," she said.
Soon afterwards, a restaurant across the street was visited by the same man.
"He filled out a report; I'm not sure what exactly he wrote," said Sean Barbosa, an employee at Trattoria Micco.
"He came to speak to me afterward, asking me how long the company's been open for, if I have any employees in the back who speak French."
When the man visited travel agency Voyages Caleche, one employee started asking questions.
Travel agent Antoinette Mercurio said she asked the man to identify himself.
According to Mercurio, the visitor said he was there to check up on the office and ensure that it conforms with the law.
"That's when it clicked. I said, 'oh are you with the office de la langue francaise?' and he goes, 'No no, but we work together."
It turns out the mysterious visitor is connected to a non-profit group called Impacte Affaires, an organization that helps small businesses comply with Quebec's language laws.
The OQLF confirmed it does work with some outreach groups, but these groups do not carry out inspections.