The Calgary Herald
Monday, June 16, 1997

Quebec's language cops slammed over Net policy

by Mike King

MONTREAL -- Internet surfers are flooding the Office de la Langue Francaise with waves of E-mail slamming the provincial language watchdog for trying to sink its teeth into the Information Highway.

"We're getting lots of (electronic) hate mail", OLF spokesman Gerald Paquette acknowledged Monday.

Paquette said the missives of discontent began pouring in after The Gazette published a front-page story Saturday about the language police patrolling the Net for World Wide Web sites that don't conform to Bill 101.

"Whenever (the media) use "language police', all the loonies in the world come out," he noted. "It's not pleasant, but we're used to it." Not all the reaction was negative, however.

"We got lots of technical calls from the United States Monday," Paquette said. "There's big interest over jurisdiction of the Internet."

"I'm not accepting that (the OLF) has jurisdiction over the Net," stressed Morty Grauer, whose West Island computer store was the focus of the weekend newspaper article.

Grauer said in a telephone interview last Friday that his Micro-Bytes Logiciels shop in Pointe Claire removed most of its homepage from the Net because the OLF had served notice last month that the company is in violation of the French Language Charter.

He was informed in a late-May letter that his store's Web site - www.microbytes.com - didn't meet the criteria of the charter's Article 52.

The clause states that catalogues, brochures, leaflets, commercial directories and all other publications of that nature must be in French.

Although it isn't specifically spelled out in Article 52, the Net is now included on that list, according to Paquette.

"I think they're just pushing it to see how far they can go," argued Grauer. Bolstered by growing support - Micro-Bytes received more than 100 e-mail messages during the weekend and at least 20 more Monday, besides phone calls and in-store visits - Grauer reinstated his homepage.

He had been given until the end of the month to translate his homepage into French or risk possible sanctions from the OLF.

"I'm still going ahead with a bilingual homepage (which is already 75 to 80 per cent complete), but whether it will be ready for July 1 or not, I don't know," Grauer said. "I don't think there's anything they can do."

Meanwhile, he is continuing to encourage Net users to fire off more angry E-mail to the government via its own Web site - www.olf.gouv.qc.ca - by regular mail and by phone.

Paquette said Quebec businesses that have their certificate of francization (firms with 50 employees or more) are being asked to have French on their Internet sites or risk having the certificates suspended or revoked.

Smaller enterprises like Micro-Bytes could face other sanctions under Article 52.

Links:
OLF E-Mail address: scom@olf.gouv.qc.ca
OLF Homepage: http://www.olf.gouv.qc.ca/


Copyright © 1997 by The Calgary Herald. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.