Quebec governments, particularly those of the sovereignist persuasion, like to preen when the world takes notice of the province. Not so last week, however.
Two things got Quebec unusually prominent coverage beyond its borders. One was the raid on Montreal’s city hall by the provincial anti-corruption squad. Even bigger news abroad was the crackdown by the province’s language police on one of Montreal’s leading Italian restaurants, Buonanotte, for having Italian words, such as pasta, on its menu.
World-class eatery Joe Beef in Montreal was subject to harassment for a pair of innocuous decorative signs in English on its premises. When a language inspector descended on Holder, a popular Parisian-style brasserie in Old Montreal, she was shocked to find the words Hold and Redial on the staff telephone, and a switch marked On/Off on the microwave, and ordered the owner cover them with tape.
Also found unacceptable at Holder were the letters WC on a toilet door and the word steak on a kitchen chalkboard where the chef wrote his grocery list. Pleas that WC, even though it stands for water closet, is common usage on public bathrooms in France, and that steak is as commonly used in French as in English, were of no avail.
Signs of Spring in Quebec, already.