The Globe & Mail
Monday, June 23, 1997

Quebec store caught in language Web

MONTREAL (CP) -- The latest language flap in Quebec is over the province's move to order a Montreal-area computer store, Micro-Bytes Logiciels, to translate its English-only Internet site into French.

Can Quebec impose its will upon the Internet?

No, Micro-Bytes said.

No, federal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps said.

Probably, the lawyer for one of Canada's bigger Internet providers said.

Micro-Bytes withdrew the site advertising its products and prices after receiving a notice from the Office de la langue française, which enforces Quebec's language laws. Then the story hit a local newspaper.

"We immediately got flooded with a response not to [remove]", said Marc Silverman, manager of the Micro-Bytes head store in suburban Pointe-Claire. "We were back on-line within 24 hours."

The company has until July 2 to comply with the order. It has consulted lawyers and could decide to fight back on grounds of intimidation and censorship, Mr. Silverman said.

There are no laws telling him what language he must use if he advertises on TV or radio, Mr. Silverman added. "I don't see how the Internet is above those laws, or lack of laws."

An aide to Quebec Language Minister Louise Beaudoin said the issue is about the right of French-speaking Quebeckers to have advertising in their own language.

"We have no intention of going on the Internet to demand that someone who has an urge to post a site about butterflies should have it translated into French", Hugo Séguin said. "But here we have a Montreal business selling hardware to Montreal clients."

Ms. Copps argues Quebec has overstepped its jurisdiction because communications is a federal matter. "They're entering in on pretty murky territory and I'm not sure they would be successful", Ms. Copps has said. Margo Langford, chairwoman of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, disagreed that Ottawa rules the Net.

"If she's suggesting it's because there's telecommunications facilities involved, that may be", Ms. Langford said from Ottawa. "But maybe that does not exclude provincial consumer laws and marketing laws and so forth from being applicable".


Copyright © 1997 by Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.