Montreal

As Quebec sets sights on bilingual greeting, Montrealer plans to open Café Bonjour/Hi

Café Bonjour/Hi is set to open on St-Denis Street, between Ontario and Sherbrooke streets, within the next year. 

Café Bonjour/Hi is set to open on St-Denis St., between Ontario and Sherbrooke sts.

Dave Plant says the future cafe's name is not an intended jab at the government.  (CBC)

As the CAQ government sets its sights on phasing out the bilingual "bonjour/hi" greeting commonly heard in Montreal, a local retailer says he intends to open a new cafe with the same name. 

Café Bonjour/Hi is set to open on St-Denis Street, between Ontario and Sherbrooke streets, in November. 

Its owner, Dave Plant, says the cafe's name is not an intended jab at the government. 

"We didn't know it was going to be pushed in this direction," Plant said. "It's just funny. It's not a big deal; who cares?"

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, who was handed the French language portfolio a month ago, has begun to address the issue, saying Friday he hopes to ensure "bonjour" is the default greeting in the province's stores and businesses.

Originally from Burlington, Ont., Plant has owned his restaurant Bouffe Dave Plant Food in the Gay Village for two years. 

He says he's always made sure his employees are comfortable speaking both official languages. 

"If ... you can't have a conversation in French, that's one thing. But bonjour/hi?" Plant said. "You start with French, you acknowledge a multilingual thing — which is Montreal."

The Office québécois de la langue française enforces the Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101.

Plant says he is potentially worried about a crackdown on his new cafe, but that he and his team are doing their best to check all the necessary boxes to ensure they're following the law. 

"We're not trying to change the political landscape or anything," Plant said. 

Elections Canada criticized

One French-language advocacy group says the official Elections Canada greeting for Quebec — "bonjour/hello" — is unacceptable. 

"Elections Canada is sorely lacking in respect for Quebec's population, which wishes to see the status of their official language, French, advance in public space, rather than regress," the Mouvement Québec français said in a statement. 

The group's president, Maxime Laporte, said bonjour/hi is just the the tip of the iceberg. 

"It presents a symbolic question that hides greater challenges having to do with the future of the [French] language," Laporte said. 

A spokesperson for Elections Canada told CBC that using both official languages in a greeting is standard for all federal government services across the country. 

"It's part of the rule book," said Pierre Pilon. "The only goal of that rule is that we can signify to the public that we can serve them in both official languages."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was asked what he thinks about the renewed controversy over the bilingual greeting during a media availability near Belleville, Ont., Sunday morning.

"We will always defend both official languages everywhere across this country. That's something Canadians expect of a Liberal government and that's what we will do, he said.

"We recognize that the provincial government in Quebec will have questions to answer about how they will move forward on such legislation. We're curious to see how they do that."

Trudeau said he doesn't have anything else to add until a specific proposal is on the table.

With files from CBC's Simon Nakonechny

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