Quebecois political muscle takes over the pet food industry?

[warning: the following post contains French words without accent marks, because my computer doesn’t speak French, sorry]

My new package of Hartz Gravel 'n Grit Digestive Aid for All Pet Birds is also labeled, “Gravier et Sable, aide les oiseaux a digerer”. And the whole package is bilingual, French and English, copyright the Hartz Mountain Corporation, Secaucus, NJ, and St. Thomas, Ontario.

It’s amazing how exotic things like “sprinkle Gravel n’ Grit liberally on cage floor” sounds in French. “Ah, ma petite, repandre Gravier et Sable genereusement sur le plancher de la cage. Ah!..Ah!..Oui!..Oui!..OUI!!..”

I didn’t realize the language issue was that big a deal, to trickle down to the level of parakeet gravel.

So is this the beginning of a cultural coup d’etat? Today bird gravel, tomorrow McDonalds?

Or do they just sell a lot of parakeet gravel in Canada, and my local Wal-Mart happened to get hold of a truckload? Oooh, Canadian bird gravel, how exciting!

Products sold in Canada by law have to be labelled in both French and English. Hartz is just trying to save money by not having to print and sort different containers for different markets. It’s not a bad law except when the language police raid little specialty shops and bust the owners for English-only labels. Every now and then there’s a story in Canadian newspapers of some little shop that imports food from England or Asia, or kosher foods, being ruined by a government bureaucrat raid. Montreal is a hotbed of language police raids. The most recent madness was a corner store run by a south Asian immigrant. The language police ruled that the owner’s French was inadequate to serve his customers and he must hire a French speaking clerk to work in his shop. The poor baffled owner had never noticed any problems serving his customers and bankruptcy loomed. IMHO the whole situation was triggered by a complaint by a racist and the language police were just acting as running dog flunkies for a racist.

My favourite French label was on containers of lip balm. Cold sores translated into French as “herpes labial”. Sadly this translation got changed a couple of years ago.

Al, you are confusing several laws and two levels of government.

The law requiring products to be labeled in French and English is a federal law (from Ottawa) which stretches cross-country.

The sign laws and what have you are provincial laws restricted to Quebec. To a certain extent they’re a Good Thing (you don’t really want Montreal to end up looking like Toronto, do you?) but the OLF is notorious for taking a Good Thing Too Far.