Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reporter Disses Struggling Company for Lack of French

On the day that Mega Brands (a Quebec manufacturer of toys) announced US$323 million dollars loss, the French Montreal daily newspaper, La Presse, did a feature article, lambasting the company (and others) for violating the spirit, if not the letter of the language law, Bill 101.
I guess the reporter who wrote the story, Philippe Mercure, put his story to bed long before the news of the crippling loss was announced, but the irony of the two articles hitting the street on the same day is a little bit sad.

It reminds us again, that in Quebec, language trumps everything.

Here's part of what the reporter wrote;
"Des communiqués de presse en anglais seulement. Des conférences téléphoniques au cours desquelles des dirigeants d'entreprises québécoises discutent avec des analystes financiers sans qu'aucun mot en français ne soit prononcé. Si ces pratiques ne sont pas clairement illégales, elles vont toutefois à l'encontre de l'esprit de la loi 101.." .La Presse

"...Press releases in English only. Conference calls in which directors of Quebec companies hold discussions with financial analysts without one word of French spoken. While these practices are not clearly illegal, they contradict the spirit of the law. " translation
While Mr. Mercure was slamming Mega Brands for it's lack of French, the directors had more pressing business, it's survival. The company is pretty much on the ropes with it share price down to 41¢ today from an all time high of $29.

Speaking of conference calls, perhaps La Presse would like to see more conversations like this;
Quebec Company: SVP, Monsieur Banquier, nous avons besoin de plus de temps...
(Please Mr. banker, we need more time)
NY Bank: What? What did you say?

Quebec Company: J'ai dit, nous avons besoin d'aide!
(I said, we need help!)
NY Bank: I'm sorry I don't understand.

Quebec Company: Nous avons une plan de restructuration.
(We have a re-structuring plan)
NY Bank: I can't help you if can't understand what you're saying! Do you speak English?

Quebec Company: Parlez-vous Francais?
(Do you speak French?)
NY Bank: What?

Quebec Company: DO YOU SPEAK FRANCAIS!!!?

NY Bank: Sorry, I'm hanging up now.

Quebec Company: ARRET! NON! NON! NON! NON!
(Stop! No! No! No! No!)
NY Bank:

Quebec Company: Maudits anglais!! VA CHIER!!!
(@#$%& English! Go #$%^&$)
The La Presse article also reminded readers that the Quebec Government keeps a blacklist of companies that refuse to Frenchify themselves to the satisfaction of the OQLF, the board charged with protecting the French language.
Companies on the list are ineligible for government contracts.

Quebec citizens are encouraged to "report" on business' that are not in conformity with the law. There is an online snitch form or a friendly Microsoft 'Word' version, that citizens can download.

The language commission doesn't report on the number of complaints it receives, but it must be a lot.

There is an army of fanatical volunteers who take on the challenge with the zeal of a religious zealots.

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