c|net News
Monday, April 27, 1998

Que Internet

Quebec Language Police venture onto Net

QUEBEC (CP) -- Quebec businesses must respect the province's language laws when they advertise on the Internet to ensure that French-speaking consumers are properly served, Culture Minister Louise Beaudoin said Monday.

"I think the laws of the land apply", Beaudoin told a video-conference held in Montreal and broadcast in Quebec City on the government's strategy to develop the information highway in French.

"So the laws will be the laws of Quebec, including Bill 101", she said. "I know it's a big debate but that's what the government thinks right now."

Beaudoin said she'd rather not impose provisions of Bill 101 on Internet providers and expects them to comply because it's "common sense".

The language laws say that French must be at least twice as predominant as English on commercial signs. Quebec says it has received legal advice that it is on solid ground in extending its legislation to commercial advertising on the Internet.

A Montreal-area computer store, Micro-Bytes Logiciels, was ordered last year to translate its English-only Internet site into French.

Store manager Mark Silverman said Monday that Mico-Bytes' web page is 99 per cent bilingual but has one per cent in English to purposely not conform to provincial law.

"We think the whole thing is stupid", Silverman said. "The Internet isn't their problem", he said of the government's attempt to apply language laws on the Net.

Silverman said most of his clients are francophones and they haven't made any complaints.

Beaudoin said some of the province's language laws may have to be updated to take into account the Internet and electronic communication with computers.

About 10 per cent of Quebec households are plugged into the Internet, Beaudoin estimated.

"One of the main reasons why Quebecers hesitate, maybe, to buy computers and to connect themselves to the Internet is that there should be more content in French."

About 30 per cent of all French-language sites on the Net are based in Quebec.

Ron Kawchuk, president of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, said companies and Internet providers from outside Quebec who serve the provincial market usually have bilingual Web pages.

"They're business people, it makes sense for them to have it in both languages", Kawchuk said from Mississauga, Ont.

Federal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps agreed the Internet needs more French content but doesn't like the idea of putting limits on what can be found there.

"One of the issues you have to address is making sure that the content that is already being created is out there and available, and I don't think you do that by limiting content."

Copyright © 1998 by Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.