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CAQ building list of bad apple businesses

June 7th,2023 | Opinion

The CAQ government is hanging small businesses out to dry.

As if it wasn’t hard enough with a labour shortage, supply-chain delays and overhanging debt, Quebec will now publicly expose small businesses whose employees are “not capable of communicating in French.”

Beginning June 1, as a provision of Bill 96, businesses with between five and 49 employees will be required to declare their employees’ French proficiency — and the findings will be published on a searchable database that includes names, home addresses and contact information for business owners. The database features a section that asks the “number of employees in Quebec” and the “proportion of employees who are unable to communicate in French at work.”

We all know how much Quebec loves its snitch culture. The model of the province’s language cops, Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), is built on this, where customers can complain about a business not using enough French, and within a day or two, the tongue troopers show up to hand the business a fine.

Is the CAQ government doxing small businesses with this new provision? Will this feed directly into the hands of the language cops? Will these new rules put a target on the backs of anglophone workers and employers in Quebec?

Yes.

To be clear, this newspaper’s position has always been that it’s imperative to protect French language and culture, but never at the expense of minorities across the province.

The government says that it will use the information to encourage these businesses to increase the French proficiency of their employees, but we all know what this is about: having a list of the province’s bad apples so the government can put the language cops on speed dial. This new provision is just more ammo for the OQLF.

Quebec Community Groups Network president Eva Ludvig argues that these new rules will place a “tremendous burden” on both employees and small businesses — many who are still in recovery mode as they try to pay back debt they wracked up during the pandemic. The biggest impact this will have, says Ludvig, is adding another barrier for hiring employees when local mom and pop shops are already struggling to find staff.

“The impact of Bill 96 is now starting to really show the difficulties that we will be creating for all of Quebecers, not just those who will have to learn French or speak French or work in French…but those who want to start a business will have to jump through more bureaucratic hoops and will have extra financial [costs],” she said.

The government will soon have a list of the ‘bad apple’ businesses in the province — those who don’t use “French in an exemplary manner,” and who will likely end up on the OQLF dartboard this summer.

The tongue troopers are now armed with a cache of ammo, and we know they aren’t afraid to use it.

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