It's the little Quebec greeting that made international headlines – and the minister responsible for Quebec's English-speaking community says it's gotten out of hand.
Last Thursday, the National Assembly voted unanimously against retailers using the bilingual greeting ‘Bonjour-Hi.’
In her first interview since voting in favour of the controversial motion, Kathleen Weil spoke exclusively with CTV News.
She said she was surprised by the backlash and believes the motion was misunderstood.
Weil said many of the people who contacted her to complain believed the government actually legislated against the bilingual greeting, when in fact the National Assembly adopted a symbolic motion which carries no legal weight.
The motion, introduced by the PQ, encourages Montreal stores to drop the ‘Hi’ and greet customers with a simple ‘Bonjour.’
Weil says it makes sense.
“You cannot function in Quebec, we won't be able to keep our young people here if they don't speak French. Everybody understands that. So it is the common language in that respect,” said Weil.
Weil's riding office has been dealing with angry emails and phone calls, as have the offices of Geoff Kelley and David Birnbaum, the two other anglophone MNAs in the Liberal caucus.
The initial wording of the motion was different; it said the bilingual greeting was an ‘irritant,’ but that was removed. Weil said she doesn't believe people realized how forcefully the premier spoke against it.
“I thought the premier said it best,” continued Weil. “If you say that it's shocking to hear English, that's unacceptable. So that was removed and that was the problem for us. We would never have supported it if it had been in its original version, but once all that was removed, what was the negative message in it? There was no negative message.”
Still, for many in the English-speaking community, it sent a message that English is frowned upon in the province.
“It's petty politics too, at the same time. It's petty politics for him (PQ leader Jean-Francois Lisee) to have even brought this thing forward to score some points on where he stands on language, on an issue like ‘Bonjour-Hi.’ I think that's what struck the world,” she said.
The matter has made international headlines, including an article published Tuesday in the New York Times.