Just when you thought the Office québécois de la langue française, (OQLF) couldn't get any more petty and vindictive, they quickly put paid to any such notion.
Living up to the tenet of the organization's motto- "TOUTES RÉSISTANCE EST INUTILE!," the OQLF demanded that an English school board change its computer keyboards to French versions. The idea that the words SHIFT and ENTER represent a clear and present danger to Quebec society's ability to maintain its purity, would be laughable, if not so sad.
But the $5,000 cost seems to be of little concern to the school board in question, as its spokesman desperately tried to downplay the whole incident. Obviously there are other pokers in the fire. And so the Riverside School Board is replacing the offending keyboards and plastering stickers over English keys on laptops. CBC Story
The story has achieved a bit of traction and has hit the CBC National television news when Peter Mansbridge asked viewers, tongue in cheek, if they were interested in buying the perfectly good keyboards. Video of the CBC News story
Of course the OQLF is used to being humiliated by Anglos, but to them, it's basically 'water off a duck's back.'
There's little doubt, that there's going to be some blowback in the French media, once the story crosses the language barrier. The French media doesn't usually appreciate having this beloved institution held up to scorn and derision, especially by arrogant anglos. Likely to defend the OQLF in dead earnest, they will surely increase media attention in the English press. New York Times, anyone?
The idea of forcing an English school board, where almost all head office employees are English, to operate in French, is one of the more vindictive applications of the dreaded Bill 101 language law. It's the same principle that forces English television stations to advertise their English shows in French when using outdoor billboards. I suppose there is a logic there, twisted as it would seem.
Ever since the the adoption of Bill 101, the pettiness in the treatment of the English language has been a hallmark of the OQLF, which treats English as an enemy combatant, subject only to the fair rules of war.
When the Quebec school system was reorganized into English and French, non-confessional school boards, the old Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal needed a name change, but was refused its first choice, the 'Montreal English School Board.' And so today the board operates under the name that was approved, the 'English Montreal School Board."...Can you figure that one out?
Every time I hear stories about the application of the language law in such an arbitrary and petty manner, I am reminded of the side mirror outside my passenger door on my car.
"OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR"
How come no stickers on the mirror?
How come a poor watchmaker in Hudson or a cash-strapped English school board is harassed by the language cops while giant car companies have no obligation to be in compliance with Bill 101?
Although the majority of dashboards in our cars are filled with pictograms and the computers toggle between French and English, there remains a 'shocking' amount of English on our instrument panels.
Why? Why? Why?
I'm sure the car companies have some sort of exemption, probably because the exorbitant cost to 'bilingualize' the dashboards would have to be passed on to reluctant consumers, but that hardly seems an excuse.
The unequal treatment whereby the small fish are terrorized and the big ones go about their business with impunity gives rise to disrespect.
I am reminded of my only brush with the OQLF, some twenty years ago, when our company head office was visited by a language inspector bent on insuring that we were operating under the doctrine of Bill 101.
When employees were informed that the inspector was about to start his rounds, they all toggled their computers over to the English version of the software that we were running at the time. It was just a matter of pressing the F12 key to switch between English and French.
When the inspector asked some of the French employees why French wasn't available, they just shrugged their shoulders and told him that it was okay, because they were used to the English system. Ha Ha!!
When we received a registered letter from the 'Office' informing us of our non-compliance with the law, we dutifully wrote back telling them that our software was indeed French compliant and that the inspector should have 'known' that fact, had he done a thorough inspection!
We never heard back from the 'Office' and had a good laugh until our software company phoned us and angrily told us that they were now the subject of an audit by the OQLF because of our actions..... err.....sorry about that!