Monday, December 28, 2009

Buzz Lightyear -Parlez-vous Francais?

Désolé, je ne parle pas français

Yesterday, Mitch in the comments section noted that toys that have English components (voice) or that do not have French equivalents are not being sold in Quebec. I knew of this, but because I haven't had any kids of toy age for many years, wasn't aware that the interdiction also applied to online sales.
"Try ordering something, say, 'LeapFrog's Leapster' from Toy's R Us website. Apparently it's not just shipping that's banned, they won't carry them in stores either."
So I tried a variety of products including "Toy Story Doodler' over at, who apparently also enforces the embargo.

"We're Sorry. Due to shipping restrictions, the following item(s) cannot be shipped to the shipping address you have selected. Toy Story - Kid Tough Doodler - English Edition"
While I can make some allowances for not allowing products to be sold in Quebec stores without a French equivalent, why online sales are also banned makes no sense at all. It is arbitrarily punitive and smacks of sour grapes.

Clever me, I decided to try to buy the product from in the USA.

I tried a few other US retailers and was pleased to find that Fischer Price itself would ship the product to Quebec. It seems we Anglos can run the blockade if we are creative.

Perhaps we should dig a smuggling tunnel under the border like the Palestinians do. What do you think?

The whole idea of disallowing English products into the Province is based on jealousy.
"If we can't get it in French, you can't get it in English, even if you are English!"

The same embargo applies to films, videos and soon video games. For a people who want to promote their vaunted French culture, it seems that they can't get enough of English. I don't really understand how a French version of Hannah Montana promotes French culture, other than to reduce it to a pale imitation of what's cool in English.

Why doesn't this English prohibition apply to books as well?
Probably because banning books is a verboten and is the hallmark of an intolerable government. It would lead to international humiliation. Besides who really reads!!

As one of my employees once asked me.
"Have you seen this new French TV show called "LE BANQUIER?"
"Dunno" I answered, "What's it about?

"Well, there's a bunch of super hot models on a stage who hold briefcases that when opened, reveal a dollar amount the contestant can win..."


Thank you to Mitch for the inspiration for this post!


  1. And what is so funny about all this? From Montreal, just drive 2 hours to the South to Plattsburgh or to the West to Ottawa and one can get whatever one may want.

    From Gatineau, it is just a short hop across the bridge. Since there is no border control on Ottawa River, that rule is totally unenforceable here.

  2. This is not about whether it's easy to get around this blockade (I'm sure to some it's just a minor inconvience), it's about how extreme the Quebec government is getting. Quite frankly it's getting scary, this is the kind of thing you only see in places like China or Iran. Now, apparently, Quebec too. Canada boasts a charter of rights and freedoms. Quebec keeps seeing how far it can get away with not only ignoring it, but breaking it to the point its criminal to the international community.

    How long before Quebec blocks English TV programming? English radio? English books? English websites? English spoken or used in the workplace, schools, legal system or hospitals? (oh, they already have it severly limited, but don't be surprised when it's one day banned completely).

    They've finally crossed the line with this, and this is only just the very beginning. How can anyone Canadian just sit idlely while this criminal attack on basic human rights in under attack?

  3. You are so wrong about all this..or maybe its just that you dont want to see the truth.

    You said : "The whole idea of disallowing English products into the Province is based on jealousy.
    "If we can't get it in French, you can't get it in English, even if you are English!"

    Come on ! You know its not about Jalousy at all ... its about puting some pressure on compagnies to traduce their games and other product in french.

    Why do this... because we ( i m a french canadian from Quebec ) dont want to desapear , we want to survive , we want our language to survive, we want to be able to live in Quebec in French and not be disconnected from the rest of the world because we dont speak english.

    Its not an agression toward anglophone , its only a tool to help us trying to survive in a english speaking North America.

    1. How is this helping french quebecers survive in an english speaking north america? It's isolating you from the rest the world. The french language will not disappear, french quebecers should stop being brainwashed by this circus act we have as a government (Marois and the PQ) and try to merge into the rest of the world and learn some english as well.

  4. To anonymous: You're right, it's not about jealousy. It's about mean spirited hatred, brought on by misguided feelings of intense xenophobia and racism.

    Wow. "We don't want to disappear. We want to survive. We want our language to survive. We want to be able to live in Quebec in French". Change a few words there, language to 'race' and 'Quebec in French' to 'Germany in German'. Sound familiar, like another country and people who felt their culture was threatened by another and had to take extreme measures to "protect" it?

    This is clear and simply a punishment. A punishment for speaking English, using English and most of all...being English. I fail to see the logic in how this helps protect French culture or language, which incidentally, is pretty far from being in danger. It's thriving like it never has been before in any point in history. Stop using such a transparent excuse for endorsing racist acts.

    Meanwhile, you already are disconnected from the rest of the world. Like it or not, the world works in English...go to any country in the world, it's a universal language. Quebec is backwards, it's out of sync with the rest of the planet. I'd go on to say it's literally on the verge of being part of the third world (much of it already is, it's roads, health system, education, government sanactioned racism, etc). I don't mind French, speaking French or promoting the French culture. What I do have issue with is ERASING another culture because you think yours is somehow superior and not equal.

  5. I'd like to reply to the second comment above, made by(Anonymous)who said this;
    "Its only a tool to help us trying to survive in a english speaking North America."

    First of all, thank you for your comment, which is very fair. I am sympathetic to your position. I once was given a wine book by a Francophone friend that detailed the selections which were offered by the SAQ. I was disappointed that it wasn't available in English and so can understand the frustration felt by Francophones living in an Anglophone North America every day.
    I absolutely agree that it is unreasonable to go into a grocery store and have a box of Corn Flakes (or any other product) offered in a completely English packaging. That is out of line and unfair.
    I accept as reasonable, that a talking toy that speaks only in English is banned from stores in Quebec, (unless a French version is available.)

    But I do object that ordering a English version online is a banned. That's not right and that's not fair. It's too much.
    I'm not even sure that is is a requirement of the government, but rathar over-zealous company employees.
    By the way, I compliment you on your English!
    Keep commenting, because it always makes me re-consider my position.
    Bonne Année!

  6. We pay so much frigging taxes tahat we shouldn't have to mess around.

    English only toys, books, and movies should be on the store shelves.

  7. It's all so ridiculous. I thought we lived in a free country!!! I have lived in Québec all of my life and have seen so many silly things in the schools and the work place. So many act like English is a disease. I am English and very proud of that. My husband is French but he doesn't care what language we speak in the home. I am proud to say that my children are bilingual but it's pretty bad when I have to get my sister in Ontario to get all of my presents because I can't get the ones I want in English. I am happy to be able to speak both languages yet the French are scared to utter a word in English. God forbid their ''culture'' might crumble to the ground. IDIOTS!!

  8. Funny thing is, you can order French versions and have them shipped to the other Canadian provinces.. Just not English in to Quebec. That is discriminatory, racist and xenophobic