The pasta predicament was on the menu at a very small conference in Saint-Basile-le-Grand Saturday, designed exchange ideas about modifying Quebec's language law.

Quebec's Language Minister Diane de Courcy fielded questions and spoke about the PQ's controversial Bill 14 at the event, jointly organized by the Société nationale des Québécois de Richelieu-Yamaska, the Mouvement Montérégie français and the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal.

Some claimed English and some French media demonize Bill 101, by highlighting language watchdog the Office quebecois de la langue francais’s bungle at Buonanotte restaurant last week, where the word “pasta” was deemed unacceptable on the Italian eatery’s menu.

The OQLF later backtracked and conceded that in fact the word 'pasta’ on an Italian restaurant menu is acceptable -- after the story went viral on social media.

“For me, it’s intimidation. They're not xenophobic, they just want to ensure French survives,” said Mario Beaulieu, president of the Mouvement Quebec Francais, a hardline French-language group.

Asked if she thought the pasta flap could damage Quebec's international reputation, de Courcy said the incident was upsetting.

“I think we’re very disappointed with how public the incident became. We’ll continue to encourage the OQLF to use moderation and judgment and will look into the way inspections are carried out,” she said.

Even hardliner Beaulieu agreed 'pasta' should be permitted, but said he doesn't favour moderation, when applying the letter of the law.

Funding for French universities

French university funding was also discussed at the meeting, the basis of a study by sovereignist political party Option nationale.

“In Quebec, 21 per cent of people who are Quebecers are going to English university,” said Eric Bouchard of Option nationale.

The party wants French-language universities to get more funding so they can attract more francophone students away from English universities, a timely topic considering the higher education summit begins Monday in Montreal.

Just to re-balance the funds between the two kinds of institutions, that's what we're saying now. We're asking a question,” he said.