The Suburban, By Joel Goldenberg, May 1st, 2013

An Office Québécois de la Langue Française inspector took her camera to Côte St. Luc last Thursday, probing Pharmaprix, IGA and the Cordonnerie Cavendish shoe repair store in Quartier Cavendish (Cavendish Mall) for potential language law offences.

According to interviews and discussions with each of the stores probed, a female inspector came in, took pictures and said each establishment would receive a letter in a month and a half with the results of the OQLF’s investigation if the law was seen to be violated.

The visit outraged many at the mall, including Gino Scandale, owner of Ralphs Mens Wear and president of the mall’s merchants association.

“This was very unexpected, especially to come into a [majority] anglophone community and start like that,” Scandale told The Suburban. “It’s sort of like coming into the West End, agitating people…. They saw English lettering; the law says French has to be three times bigger than the English. That’s the type of crap going on right now.

“It’s just ludicrous,” he added. “We’ve got to, at some point, start speaking out. From what I see now, we’re between the devil and the deep blue sea. Anyone who really speaks out, they get the tax department and [other repercussions]. That’s why, I feel, a lot of people are not speaking out.”

Pharmaprix manager Ian MacDonald said the inspector was checking if the signage in the store complied with the language law. No warnings were given on Thursday, MacDonald said.

“We’re in Côte St. Luc, I think they’re in the wrong neighbourhood,” MacDonald said. “They want to push an issue, and that’s it. It’s ridiculous, but what are you going to do? They want to pass Bill 14.”

IGA management had no comment.

Hovig Ourichian of Cordonnerie Cavendish confirmed that the OQLF visited the store.

“The inspector came to check and took some pictures from the outside, and told me they were checking the signage of whatever a customer sees from the outside in,” Ourichian told The Suburban. “She took some pictures, said she would send it to an inspector and if I was at fault, they would send me a letter.

“They seem to not have anything better to do,” he added. “Hospitals need money, they’re cutting everywhere and meanwhile these guys are going around taking pictures and wasting our money.”

Many stores in the mall avoid any language problems by having very few signs -one store primarily has just the store name and sales numbers, such as an item being 20 percent off, but very little wording. Some are also careful to greet customers with a “bonjour.”