Quebec Language Laws: Caffe In Gamba, Montreal Coffee Shop, Faces Prosecution Over Spelling Of ‘Cafe'

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A Montreal coffee shop is facing prosecution under Quebec’s language laws over its name, which spells “cafe” with an extra “f,” according to several news reports.

Caffe In Gamba, located in the city’s trendy Mile End neighbourhood, spells "cafe" the Italian way, with two 'f's.

The Office quebecois de la langue francaise (OQLF) has referred the case of Caffe In Gamba to Quebec’s criminal prosecutor, which has decided to pursue the case, La Presse reported Friday.

It’s the second time in as many weeks that an Italian eatery in Quebec has expressed concerns about what some see as overzealous enforcement of the province’s French-first language laws.

A public uproar last week over “Pastagate” — in which the trendy Italian restaurant Buonanotte was ordered to remove the word “pasta” from its menu — resulted in the provincial government ordering a review of how the OQLF handles cases.

The OQLF wants Caffe In Gambia to add phrases in French to its canopy signs, or to change its name outright to “Cafe In Gamba.” In addition, it wants nearly $1,900 in fines for violating Quebec’s language law.

Jean-Francois Leduc, the cafe’s owner, says he named the cafe in Italian because it is an Italian-style coffee shop, and the name is “part of that experience” for his customers.

He says he is trying to reach a compromise with the province. He plans to add the words “la maison de l’espresso” to his main coffee shop sign in the next few weeks, but says his other signs are too small to add the phrase.

The recent controversy over enforcement of Quebec’s language law has been a publicity headache for the province, with some observers growing worried it could harm Quebec’s ability to attract investment.

Last week’s “Pastagate” story was reported around the world and received 60 times as much press outside Canada as a story about Premier Pauline Marois’ efforts to drum up foreign investment for Quebec.

According to La Presse, the OQLF says businesses comply with its requests 98 per cent of the time. The office sends about 80 cases per year for prosecution.

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