National Assembly adopts motion against 'Bonjour, Hi' shop greeting
Quebec's politicians have unanimously passed a motion calling on store clerks to drop the word "Hi" when greeting customers.
Parti Quebecois house leader Pascal Berubé introduced the motion calling the "Bonjour, Hi" greeting an "irritant."
He said using "Bonjour" should suffice, as well as acting as a reminder that Quebec's common language is French.
"It's about being original, being ourselves and being ourselves in a major francophone city -- with an anglophone community -- but when you go to Adidas or another store in downtown Montreal or Laval or Longueuil or elsewhere, the first thing you have to say is bonjour. It's about respect. It's easy to understand," said Berubé.
While "Bonjour, Hi" is perceived as being extremely common on the island of Montreal, that perception is not true.
In 2012 the OQLF found that 74 percent of customers on the island were greeted with a unilingual "Bonjour."
Language hawks have been irritated for the past week when the manager of a shoe store committed a faux pas and said he would speak French at the store opening to "accommodate" French-language reporters.
Opposition leader Jean-Francois Lisée called on Premier Couillard to say that the English word was a nuisance, which Couillard dismissed as nonsense.
"What he is trying to do here is create an artificial crisis, a confrontation between English and French Quebec," said Couillard.
Store owners and retail clerks throughout Montreal, especially in areas frequented by tourists, use a bilingual greeting.
"Every time someone closes the door I say 'Bonjour, Hi' and I wait for the answer," said the owner of Sports Crescent.
"If he answers me in French I will continue in French. If he answers in English I will continue in English."
Santana Enrique said politicians should not waste their time debating how retailers greet customers.
"There is something more important than this, I think it's a joke," he said, pointing out that never in 25 years has any customer ever been offended by a bilingual greeting.
Most shoppers who spoke to CTV on Thursday agreed that being bilingual was simply polite.
"Isn't it nicer to go somewhere and you're treated the way you want to be treated? It's fine to say 'Bonjour' but what does it hurt to say 'Hi?' said one customer.
Another said they like the chance to mix it up.
"Sometimes I feel like speaking French so I respond in French, sometimes in English, so I don't mind it at all," they said.
One clerk working at La Gamine St. Denis said she greeted customers in French, but never hesitated to use English if a customer did not understand.
"It has to be bonjour this is definite," said Denise Hamel. "But if the person does not understand why not switch and be open-minded about other languages too?"
In the National Assembly the motion was amended to drop the word "irritant," before it passed unanimously, 111 votes to nil.
"Bonjour is a nice way to say hello," said Berubé.
The motion passed Thursday is not a law.
If store clerks ignore the motion, there will be no penalty whatsoever -- except perhaps politically.