New French-language rules for outdoor signage coming to Quebec
Rules coming this month require businesses to add French without altering trademarked names
Changes to Quebec's sign laws that were announced in May will go into effect Nov. 24, the provincial government announced Wednesday.
The rules will require Quebec businesses to add French to their outdoor signage without altering registered trademark names.
Existing signs and trade-marked businesses such as Costco and BestBuy will have three years to add French descriptors to their outdoor signage.
Any new signage going up after Nov. 24 will have to adhere to the new regulations.
'Sufficient French presence'
Under the new rules, businesses with a trademark name that is not in French would be required to add a French word, description or slogan to their outdoor signage.
The province says the changes also require that the added French words be well lit at night.
The French words do not have to be bigger than the non-French trademark name.
The goal is to have a "sufficient French presence" at every business in Quebec, whether it is a restaurant, factory, shop or hotel.
The modification does not apply to trademarks which are names, for example McDonald's or Tim Hortons.
Little more than 'French flavour,' rights group says
The new rules left a francophone rights advocacy group, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, unimpressed.
In a news release, the society denounced the changes as little more than a sprinkling of "French flavour" to otherwise English signs.
"These new measures do not respond to the objective of making French the public and common language in Quebec," said Maxime Laporte, the group's president.
When the measures were introduced in May, the regional president at Walmart, Xavier Piesvaux, welcomed the regulation, saying it "gives our companies the flexibility to communicate in French while keeping the integrity of our brand."
Changes follow legal battle
In 2014, major retailers such as Walmart, Costco and Best Buy won a court battle with the province over their signage, with the Quebec Superior Court ruling businesses that have storefront signs with their trademark name in a language other than French do not contravene the Charter of the French Language.
The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) wanted the companies to change their signs to either give themselves a generic French name or add a slogan or explanation that reflects what they are selling.
But the judge hearing the case ruled in favour of the major retailers — a list including Best Buy, Costco, Gap, Old Navy, Guess, Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us and Curves.
The decision was later upheld by the Quebec Court of Appeal.