Jolin-Barrette draws back from "Hi" ban

Simon Jolin-Barrette has decided he won’t launch a bill to make it illegal to say “bonjour-hi” although he may put out some PR to try to squelch it.

I don’t actually know whether it’s possible, in our legal framework, to legislate what people say. Possibly it is, in a commercial setting.

I’ve told this anecdote before, but for example:

I was in an Italian grocery store on St-Viateur. Waiting at the cash, I noticed the two cashiers speaking together in native English, so when I got to the cash, I addressed the cashier in English. She replied in French. No problem, I switched to French. Then she turned and said something again to the other woman in English.

“Forgive me for asking,” I said. “You two are talking in English, but when I spoke to you in English, you replied to me in French, and I’m curious why.”

“We have to. The boss has had formal complaints about us speaking English so the policy is we always speak French to customers.” (She said this in English.)

“Even if they begin by speaking English to you?”

“Especially then. People have tricked us into speaking English that way, and then they complain we spoke to them in English.”

I don’t know whether a store can be fined for having staff who switch to English when it seems natural to do so, but this suggests they can.

Some thoughts on this from the ever-cromulent Toula Drimonis.

Meantime, three quarters of Quebec residents polled said they think Montreal is a bilingual city.