The unofficial greeting in the bilingual Canadian city of Montreal has long been a friendly “Bonjour, Hi!”
But that standard is no more since a motion mandating store clerks to greet customers only in French was passed in Quebec’s provincial legislature.
The move reaffirms French as the primary language in the province, where use of English can be controversial.
The motion – which is not a law – was passed unanimously, but the province’s premier called the debate “ridiculous”.
Introduced by the fiercely Francophile Parti Quebecois, the motion “invites all businesses and workers who enter into contact with local and international clients to welcome them warmly with the word ‘bonjour'”.
“It’s about being original and being ourselves, and being ourselves is a major Francophone city with an Anglophone community,” said PQ house leader Pascal Bérubé.
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“First thing you have to say, I think, is ‘bonjour.’ It’s about respect, it’s easy to understand.”
Premier Philippe Couillard, a Liberal, objected to the original wording of the motion, which called the inclusion of “Hi” in greetings “an irritant”. He accused the PQ of trying to fan the flames of language war and stoke division in the province.
He said the whole debate was “ridiculous”, but agreed to vote in favour of the motion once the word “irritant” was removed.