On Thursday, the Quebec unanimously adopted a motion calling on store clerks to stick with a simple “bonjour” when addressing customers instead of the hybrid “bonjour/hi” often heard in Montreal.
The national assembly members voted 111-0 in favour of the motion, which is not coercive.
The PQ says too many people are speaking both French and English to customers and notes that “bonjour” is one of the most recognized words in the French language.In 2012, Quebec’s language watchdog found that French-only greetings in Montreal had declined to 74% from 89% since 2010. Over the same period, bilingual greetings rose to 13% from 1 %, it added.
Leader Jean-Francois Lisee said the vote reaffirms that French is Quebec’s official language.
But in several Montreal stores, news of the motion was met largely with shrugs and head shakes.Sam Mokhtar, a part-time salesman at a sports memorabilia store, believes a bilingual greeting is a source of pride for the city.
“It’s good for commerce, for the city, for Montreal’s reputation to be bilingual, to be welcoming to the world here,” the 75-year-old said.
Most of the retailers who spoke to The Canadian Press on Thursday said they speak multiple languages, not just English and French.
Mokhtar speaks Arabic and Greek. Sadat, who moved from Afghanistan 18 years ago, has learned English, French, Spanish and Urdu in addition to her native Persian.
The ‘bonjour/hi”debate in the national assembly Wednesday was triggered by census numbers that day suggesting a slight drop in the use of French in the workplace.
Premier Philippe Couillard called the debate ridiculous but admitted his preference for a French-only greeting.PQ house leader Pascal Berube believes saying only ‘bonjour’ is the right approach.
James Shea, who heads Quebec’s main English-speaking advocacy group, said the bilingual approach is a “sign of respect for the English language in Quebec.”