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XC Zone - Foul Language (Laws)
By:  Team XCOttawa.ca   (2004/01/23)


(Re-write from Ottawa Citizen, 2004/01/23)

Ottawa sports videoproducer faces charges because website isn't translated into French. The Ottawa Citizen - Friday, January 23, 2004 (Page: B1 / FRONT Section: CityByline: Dave Rogers)

The Quebec language office last week told a man who runs anOttawa sports video production company that he will be charged withviolating provincial language laws unless he translates his website into French. David McMahon, who operates xczone.tv, which specializes in cross-country skiing instructional and motivational videos and DVDs, said yesterday he was astonished the Office quebecois de la langue francaise sent him a letter threatening legal action unless he changed his website xczone.tv.

Mr. McMahon, who is a computer engineer, said the language office may have received a complaint, but he can't understand why its staff would think it had any right to charge him or his part-timebusiness. The Chelsea resident said the long arm of the Quebec language office can't reach him because his computer servers are on Fifth Avenue in the Glebe and most of his Internet sales are to non-Quebecresidents. He added Quebec officials couldn't have examined hiswebsite carefully, because it is already partly in French and shows the company has an Ottawa address.

"I got a letter out of the blue from the *language* *police* saying allcompanies doing business in Quebec must have their websites anddescriptions of their products available in French," Mr. McMahonsaid. "It said my website wasn't entirely in French and I should correct that or I would be fined.

"I sent them an e-mail message saying their letter was misdirected because I run an Ontario company and I gave them my business number, my domain name and registration and business name and address. I got a message back saying they didn't know how to check this and they would continue to investigate."

Mr. McMahon said the Quebec language office seems to believe that anything on the Internet accessible in the province should be in French where any member of that organization lives in Quebec. "Many people who live in the Outaouais have businesses in Ottawa,"he said. "Does this mean these businesses have to have their websites and their product lines in French? My home address is not on the website, so the language office must have got it from the telephone book. I sell mostly in the United States and 10 times as many videos go to customers in Japan than to people in Quebec. The office says this is based on a complaint, but I think they are trying to panic people into doing business in French."

Mr. McMahon said the Quebec language office shouldn't try to apply language regulations outside the province. He added 20 per cent ofthe website is in French and the rest will soon be translated.

Gerald Paquette, a spokesman for the Office quebecois de la langue francaise, said the office is investigating because a consumer complained that Mr. McMahon's website didn't have any French in it. He said Quebec language law does not apply to Ontario companies, but to be exempt, company owners must prove that no part of their business is in Quebec. "We told him to advise us of the measures he would take to make the website comply with the Charter of the French Language and if he didn't comply, he could be fined," Mr. Paquette said.

"Our staff checked the validity of the complaint and the answer they got was the business is in Ontario, not Quebec. Perhaps words were said that led our staff to believe he was not telling the complete truth. Before closing the file, we must have written documents that provethat the company does not have an establishment in Quebec."

Mr. Paquette said a company convicted in court of violating the Quebec language charter faces possible fines of $500 to $1,400 for afirst offence. Brent Tyler, president of Alliance Quebec, the province's Englishrights lobby group, said it is outrageous the province is trying to apply its language laws to a company that operates on the Internet outside Quebec. Mr. Tyler said the prosecution isn't justified, even if Quebec language office staff may believe Mr. McMahon is doing some business in the province." I don't think it is a fair interpretation of the law that someone in his circumstances who takes the occasional call at his home, or might get some correspondence home, is doing business in Quebec," Mr. Tyler said. "His business is registered in Ottawa."

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