Quebec defends English Facebook page for N.Y. office
Province's language guardians ordered clothing store to translate Facebook page to French
After Quebec's language watchdog ordered a women's clothing store to translate its Facebook page into French, one of the government's own Facebook pages has been discovered in English.
The Quebec government office in New York City has an official website in French and English, but on Facebook, the office posts mostly in English — without translation.
The Office Quebecois de la langue française says language laws don't apply, because the office is located outside Quebec.
"They deal with foreign public and foreign people, and that's why they can do it in English in New York, or Japanese in Japan," said Jean-Pierre Le Blanc, spokesman for the Office Quebecois de la langue française.
Quebec's New York office was first established in 1940 to promote the province's interests in U.S. sectors including trade, education, culture and public affairs.
The Quebec Charter of French Language requires catalogues, brochures, folders and commercial directories to be in French.
It's under that law that a women's boutique in Chelsea, Que., called Delilah (in the Parc), was recently ordered to translate its Facebook page — or face legal action.
Sylvia Martine LaForge, a spokeswoman for the Quebec Community Groups Network, a Quebec English rights group, said the law was created in the 1970s and applies to pamphlets and signs but not social media.
She said the fact the province's New York office runs a Facebook page in English is a clear sign that social media should be exempt.
"It's a question of social media being such an unknown territory right now," said LaForge. "So if you say to me, will their Facebook page in New York now be bilingual, or will it have a French site and an English site, they might have to consider that."
Quebec constitutional lawyer Julius Grey also says he believes the case is a harsh interpretation of the language law.
"I think what we have to say is that in the 1970s, when the charter of the French language was adopted, these things didn't exist," said Grey.
Grey says that until the law is amended to reflect the digital age, the government shouldn't target businesses for using English on social media.