PASTAGATE - QUEBEC'S OFFICE OF THE FRENCH TONGUE IS AN EMBARRASSMENT.
Some dish titles are in Italian but otherwise the menus are in French.
QUEBEC—The head of Quebec's language watchdog agency resigned Friday following a series of controversies that have created embarrassing headlines at home and abroad.
The departure of Louise Marchand, president of the Office Quebecois de la langue francaise, was announced Friday by the provincial minister responsible for the agency.
Her exit follows a series of news stories that have drawn considerable ridicule upon the agency — in Quebec, the rest of Canada, and even internationally.
The first such story was about how an Italian restaurant was forced to remove the word "pasta" from its menu, and similar reports have surfaced repeatedly in recent days from other restaurant owners.
"These episodes had an undesired effect on the businesses, the Office personnel, the public, and Quebec in general," said Diane De Courcy, minister responsible for the French language.
Such stories are considered damning enough to the OQLF that some of its more nationalist defenders have even voiced theories of an Anglo plot to discredit the agency.
But other OQLF defenders say its inspectors are simply doing the job politicians have asked them to do — which is to vigilantly enforce Quebec's language law.
This series of events has created a rare phenomenon in Quebec politics: the Parti Quebecois government has been calling on the language watchdog to be less aggressive, not more.
It has also led to rare jokes in newspaper columns and cartoons, and in social media, about a 50-year-old institution that francophone Quebecers have traditionally credited as a cultural safeguard.
De Courcy announced several changes to OQLF procedures Friday. One will see the agency create a quality-control post, to keep an eye on any dispute between a business and an agency inspector. There will also be a new procedural guide, among other measures.
The so-called "Pastagate" stories are only one language headache for the government.
An even more significant problem for the PQ, in the long run, could be its difficulty to get a language bill adopted by the legislature.
Bill 14 appears on shaky ground with one opposition party saying it will reject key elements of the legislation.
The leader of the Coalition for Quebec's Future says he opposes plans to make French the mandatory language in the workplace for companies with between 25 and 49 employees. He also opposes plans to make it easier revoke the bilingual status of municipalities with dwindling English-speaking populations.
François Legault told a news conference in Quebec City this morning it is important to strike a balance between promoting French and respecting the rights of Anglophones.
The Coalition has 19 seats in the 125-member national assembly and effectively holds the balance of power.
The governing Parti Quebecois has 54 seats and the Liberals, who have said they will vote against the language legislation, have 50. The two others are held by the left-wing sovereigntist Québec Solidaire.
The PQ made protecting French a key issue during last year's election campaign, saying the language was threatened, particularly in Montreal and western Quebec.