Bonjour Hi – What happened last week in the Quebec provincial legislature is one of the strangest and most unexpected things, especially since it seemed that all of our elected representatives were under the effect of some magic potion that makes them lose the sense of reality. Let’s see: these days there is a debate over how much money public schools can charge parents for some extras, underlying this issue is the larger question of an increasing deterioration of what our public education system is delivering. We know that parents, teachers, and students are not very happy with the current state of education in the province. Let’s leave the classrooms for now, and try our health care services: anyone who might have faced a situation requiring to go to an emergency room in any hospital knows how long the waiting time is before you see a nurse or a doctor. Then, if you happen to take the metro or just walk on some streets, you’ll find the sad situation of homeless people sleeping among those walking around them, perhaps accepting their presence as part of the urban landscape.
Yet, with all these pressing problems facing our society at this time, our “bright” provincial politicians –whose salaries, as in any democracy, are paid with our tax dollars—spent a whole session of the Quebec National Assembly to debate the way people are customarily greeted in most shops and restaurants, especially in the downtown area: “Bonjour, Hi!”
The issue was first brought to the attention of the assembly by Jean-François Lisée, leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ), the assembly’s official opposition. The greeting was denounced as a sign of the “rampant bilingualism” in our city, something equivalent to a terrible and menacing epidemics. François Legault, leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec, didn’t miss the occasion to denounce this terrible situation, after all, he is also courting the nationalist votes, same with Québec Solidaire which is trying to replace the PQ as the standard-bearer of Quebec separatism. But then—more surprisingly—Premier Philippe Couillard and all the Liberals MNAs including the Anglophone ones, joined in this hallucinating legislative trip. In the end, by unanimous vote, the assembly issued a resolution calling the combined French-English greeting “an irritant.”
It is true that the resolution doesn’t carry any legal consequence, i.e., there are no sanctions if the practice of greeting customers with a “Bonjour, Hi!”—common in downtown stores— continues. However, the intention is to intimidate merchants, restaurateurs, and certainly their employees to refrain from using the popular salutation. It is a form of social pressure, which ultimately could eradicate one of the most characteristic and charming aspects of our city, this courtesy of a welcome given in good faith and using common sense. The attendant doesn’t know if the potential customers would prefer to be served in French or English, the accommodating welcome is merely saying that he or she would be ready to help them in either language. It is a most reasonable and practical thing to do, and if we see that this resolution succeeds in intimidating those who work in stores and restaurants, it would be a loss for all businesses downtown, small and big.
By: Sergio Martinez – email@example.com