Canada Bonjour-Hi: English is not a foreign language in Quebec, Couillard says

22:55  07 december  2017
22:55  07 december  2017 Source:   montrealgazette.com

Much ado about Bonjour-Hi: Quebec politicians squabble over popular greeting

  Much ado about Bonjour-Hi: Quebec politicians squabble over popular greeting Much ado about Bonjour-Hi: Quebec politicians squabble over popular greetingQUEBEC — Just in time for Christmas shopping, the old “Bonjour-Hi” heard daily in Montreal shops became the object of much scorn in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Quebec ’s legislature has passed a motion calling for merchants to greet customers with “Bonjour” rather than the unofficial “ Bonjour Hi .” Bill Brownstein, a veteran columnist for the Montreal Gazette, an English - language newspaper, said seizing on the language issue reflected a desperate effort by

Premier Philippe Couillard is asking Quebec ’s anglophone community to be more empathetic over the ‘ bonjour - hi ’ debate. " English is not a foreign language in Quebec ," says @phcouillard in ENGLISH during today's QP #bonjourhi.

110217-no_object-1103_city_scared-W.jpg:  © Jacques Boissinot

QUEBEC — Premier Philippe Couillard has admitted his government underestimated the negative impact the Bonjour-Hi debate would have on the English-speaking community.

And switching to English in a debate in the legislature, Couillard tried to patch things up by saying, in public, that English is not a foreign language in Quebec and should not be treated that way.

Answering a question from Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée, who wanted to know how the government planned to follow up a motion adopted here last week urging merchants to drop their traditional Bonjour-Hi greeting and use just Bonjour, Couillard had a multi-pronged response.

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"Although French is our official language , the English language is not a foreign language in Quebec ," he said . PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée said he trapped Premier Philippe Couillard with his proposal to ban " bonjour / hi ".

The frequent use of “ Bonjour - hi ” by Montreal merchants was described as an “irritant,” until Quebec premier Philippe Couillard sat down with Lisée and Thus amended—essentially, Say ‘bonjour!’ to customers, because the English language is… well, you know—the motion was adapted

Off the top, he said all Quebecers can be proud of what they have built together over many years and in the face of many obstacles.

“We are all proud of that, all Quebecers are proud of that,” Couillard said.

Then, switching to English in mid-stream, Couillard offered an olive branch to English-speaking Quebecers who in the last few days have expressed frustration and anger at seeing the legislature discourage the use of the word Hi in public.

“I also want to say to English-speaking Quebecers again, there are not different classes of Quebecers here, only one — that’s the first class,” Couillard said. “And English-speaking Quebecers are first-class Quebecers like all of us are.

“I also want to say and tell them that the English language, although French is our official language, the English language is not a foreign language in Quebec.”

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A week after the government voted in favour of a motion denouncing the popular “ bonjour - hi ” greeting, Couillard spoke out to the English community during Question Period. “Although French is our official language , the English language is not a foreign language in Quebec ,” he said in English .

READ MORE: Quebec language police ease up on use of some English words by francophones. Press gallery greeted the Premier this morning with a chorus of “ Bonjour / Hi ” #polqc. This being removed, it’s a very good text,” Couillard said .

Interestingly, Lisée was the first to say he agreed with Couillard’s statement but persisted, noting many members of the Liberal caucus are uncomfortable with the loss of the Bonjour-Hi and said they have no plans to act on the motions adopted unamimously last week.

Couillard did not address the caucus split directly but said, as he feared, the issue – which it one point he referred to as ridiculous – has taken on the kind of proportions of the old Pastagate story and is making international headlines.

He said he’s heard the anger and frustration which poured out of the English-speaking community but added the government has no plans to reverse its view that even anglophones should be using just Bonjour.

“I think we underestimated the impact it would have on our English-speaking compatriots,” Couillard told the house. “I am not talking about going back on this decision but I want to say it in no way contradicts the equal and significant place of English-speaking Quebecers in Quebec.

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Rebelling against Quebec 's ' language police'. "First thing you have to say , I think, is ' bonjour .' Premier Philippe Couillard , a Liberal, objected to the original wording of the motion, which called the inclusion of " Hi " in greetings "an irritant".

Merchants who say “ bonjour hi ” no doubt see it less as a bastardization of French than as an attempt to welcome “ Bonjour hi ” can reflect this type of purposeful language -blending. And while English -speakers in the United States might look askance at Quebec ’s fixation on keeping French

“We have to restate this very strongly: Saying Bonjour is beautiful in all languages. Even in English, the word Bonjour is beautiful. It’s written on the taxis of Montreal, by the way. So I think we shouldn’t overreact to this question.”

His comments came a day after his minister for the English-speaking community, Kathleen Weil, argued just that and questioned the community’s emotional reaction to the motion.

Weil tried to downplay the controversy and claimed the motion was misunderstood by anglophones, whom she said had trouble following events at the National Assembly.

Couillard also received a letter this week complaining about the motion from Quebec Community Groups Network president James Shea. In the letter, the QCGN expresses its disappointment with the motion.

But Lisée wants to know what incentive program the government will he put in place to respond to the legislature’s invitation.

Couillard said as far as he’s concerned, the legislature has gone far enough.

“The fact it was said in this legislature suffices,” Couillard responded. “We heard it. Everyone heard it. You will recall during this debate I expressed my fears this would be treated in a ridiculous way outside Quebec.

“As subsequent events proved, I was right to fear this. We remember the Pastagate incident. We have something similar happening now in the international media.

“I am not happy to see the international media write about the co-existence of the French and English communities in this manner. I want to restate we are all first-class Quebecers and we all have our place in society.”

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