The sun is shining, dogs are barking, and school is out for the summer. Summer means bike rides, lounging pool side, and everyone's favourite, ice cream. Perhaps equally if not more popular than ice cream, frozen yogurt or froyo has become the craze du jour. Unfortunately, a favorite frozen yogurt spot in Montreal is coming up short, or better yet, spoonless.
The Office Québécoise de la Langue Francaise (OQLF) confirms that it has opened an investigation into the popular yogurt chain Menchie's, located in Montreal's West Island. The complaint resides in the spoons. As reported on the Menchies local Facebook page, the store was visited by the OQLF after receiving a complaint. The issue: the plastic pastel-coloured spoons are embossed with English phrases, like "Sweet Moosic" or "This is my mix." Store owner David Lipper pulled the spoons, explaining that they are distributed from Menchie's headquarters in Encino, California. Social media jumped on the story, reminding us of OQLF crackdowns on Italian words like "pasta" on Québec menus, a controversy which became known as "pastagate."
Although a file has been opened on the Menchie's case, the OQLF states that no demands for correctional steps have been made to the company, at this point. The OQLF expressed great irritation at the media coverage of its recent activities, likely an accumulation of frustration at the media's reporting on recent OQLF complaints, including the extra 'f' in caffe, a renowned restaurant chef's antique PEI sign, and pre-existing debates around language laws.
"The media reported that the OQLF was asking for the removal of plastic spoons, on which an inscription in a language other than French was written. These claims are without merit," said Martin Bergeron, spokesman for the OQLF in a statement. Hours later, Lipper corrected himself on the Menchie's Facebook page, saying he had spoken with Mr. Rock Laliberte of the OQLF, and the store is allowed to put the spoons back into use until the investigation is complete. The owner thanked his clients for the outpouring of support, even offering a 10% discount on all froyo for the Saint-Jean Baptiste long weekend.
The PQ government has said that the OQLF has been "overzealous" in its handling of files and that it would review its complaints procedure. But given the status quo, it's no wonder that American chains avoid Québec at all costs. Target has already opened its doors in Toronto, and Menchie's has been settled into the Toronto scene since 2011. But here in Québec, we wait years longer for American businesses, as they translate and translate to accommodate the OQLF. Industry reports have demonstrated that Québec businesses spend an average of 19 full working days a year on compliance with government forms, rules, and regulations -- aggravation, headaches, and added bureaucracy that can hurt productivity. We cannot blame these foreign business for avoiding Québec. How is it in their best interest to work relentlessly to abide by Québec's laws and standards, and then be nailed for spoons?
And at a certain point, Québec citizens must ask: Is fighting over spoons really worth our tax dollars? Our businesses' time? Can we sleep at night despite knowing that a spoon is not 100% bilingue? What's next? Will the OQLF show up at our doorsteps and fine our children for writing in English on the sidewalks with their chalk, Happy Sainte-Jean Baptiste weekend instead of Joyeuse?
In fact, what we should encourage our children to write in white and blue chalk is "Ici, on commerce avec amour", a slogan that was part of a web-based initiative to promote linguistic peace in Québec. The Montreal-based public-relations agency Provocateur Communications, which launched this campaign, represents those who want to live in Québec in peace and quiet, where language is used to engage in debate and open discussion, rather than spending time on worthless nuisances. It is only fitting Quebecers consider their proposition on this patriarchal, national weekend.