Matzoh Bust in Montreal
Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
It is easy to understand the passion of Quebec linguistic nationalists to defend their language as an impregnable island in an ocean of Anglo-Canadian-American tradition and culture. Americans who seek to perpetuate English amidst teeming multi-ethnic pressures should and many do understand this passion.
What is difficult, however, to accept is the intolerance of Quebec secessionists of the rights of minorities within this French-speaking Canadian province to pursue their lives and customs without harassment.
Several days before the recent Passover holidays, inspectors of Quebec's Office de la langue francaise (Office of the French Language), a provincial bureaucracy with enormous socioeconomic powers, ordered some Montreal supermarkets to remove imported kosher-for-Passover foods from their shelves. And the supermarkets obeyed promptly because the penalty for not complying with this order would have been expensive, thanks to Quebec's strictly enforced language laws and regulations.
The reason for this Quebec ukase (Don Macpherson, the Montreal Gazette columnist derisively called it a "matzoh bust") was that the labeling on the kosher-for-Passover foods was only in English. And Quebec Bill 101, the provincial language law, mandates that whatever is sold in Quebec must have its labeling in French and in letters that are in substantially larger type than the English. The kosher-for-Passover foods from the United States were in English, and the importers could have gone to jail as well as being fined if they had insisted on selling these otherwise innocent grocery items.
Such behavior by the government has raised the question that if this is how the provincial leaders behave before achieving their secessionist aims, what will they be like after they have achieved that independence? Was the Passover raid by the Office de la langue francaise an attempt to intimidate Montreal's dwindling Jewish minority, who are for federalism as against secession, into fleeing the province and thus make the outcome of the next plebiscite certain of victory? …