Montreal bakery to Quebec language cops: don't fine struggling businesses during pandemic

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By Emily Campbell, CTV News Montreal

MONTREAL -- The owners of a St-Leonard bakery are calling on the Quebec government to ease off on threats of fines for French language violations while businesses are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patisserie Italia was visited by Quebec’s French language watchdog the OQLF this week about signage that included words in English and Italian.

Owner Jackie Lancia said businesses need help from the government right now, not harassment.

“We’re all trying to make a dollar, we’re all trying to keep our employees and we don’t need this stress. We really don’t,” said Lancia.

She admitted her blackboards do have several English words on them such as “cheesecake” and “smoked meat” and she plans to change them, but for some Italian signage, like the word “espresso,” Lancia said the OQLF are going too far.

“He really picked on Granita,” says Lancia. “I said to him 'That’s an Italian brand, you know, it’s an ice cream.'”

A customer inside the bakery said there’s a cultural clash exacerbated by the OQLF.

“I don’t think we can ask people to call espresso something else than it is,” the client told CTV News. “Espresso is something imported from Italy. Granita is the same thing, so how do you want us to change that culture to French?”

The OQLF was given a $5 million budget increase this spring to hire more officers to enforce the French language charter.

But Lancia said during this difficult time, the government has its priorities all wrong.

“We’re all struggling, businesses, I mean our sales have dropped so much,” she said. “And you get funds for this? Come on. Give us a break, give business people a break.”

CTV News reached out to the OQLF for comment on Saturday, but did not receive a response.

Lancia said she’ll be given a list of changes to make and if she doesnt comply, may face fines.

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