Quebec's language laws leave Ben & Jerry's shop with ice cream headache
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:18AM EST
The mood is frosty in a Quebec ice cream shop after a provincial language inspector stopped by with a scoop of complaints.
The manager of the Montreal-based Ben & Jerry’s says his ice cream parlour has had repeated “threatening” visits from language inspectors concerned about the use of English words on the menu -- such as “sprinkles” and “brownies.”
Luke Brown said the troubles began when an off-duty officer from the Quebec Board of the French Language (OQLF) showed up to order an ice cream, and started pointing out possible infractions.
“He wanted to order an ice cream but as he got to the counter he noticed there were a couple English words -- very small English words -- and I told him there’s a bullet list menu that is 100 per cent French. And he left in a threatening tone,” Brown told CTV Montreal.
Since then, Brown says there have been repeat visits from other OQLF inspectors, including one that offended paying customers by asking them to leave their table in order for him to take photos.
While the Ben & Jerry’s menu is in largely in French, some well-known flavours, such as “Cherry Garcia” and “Chunky Monkey,” have remained in English -- as opposed to the translations Cerise Garcia or Singe Grassouillet.
OQLP spokesman Martin Bergeron said under Quebec laws, only the description has to be in French, and the store appears to be in compliance with current regulations.
He was surprised to hear about the reported aggressive tone adopted by the inspectors, and said the language watchdog will carry out an internal investigation.
“People will not be happy to see us, but at least we act professionally. And by doing that we will help them comply to the Charter, which most of them do,” he said.
Brown argued it's not the language law itself that's causing the grief, but rather the inspector’s manner.
“Every request they have sent to us, we have complied 100 per cent,” he said. “He was talking in a very … threatening, bossy way, which I would say is unnecessary.”