Quebecers object to French-only Canadian Tire catalogues

Canadian Tire’s WOW catalogue in English.

Many are objecting online to the fact Canadian Tire mass mails its catalogues to Quebecers only in French, even as they have bilingual signs and flyers in their stores, The Suburban has learned.

Côte St. Luc Councillor Ruth Kovac, who with Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss has been lobbying for more bilingual signs and communications in areas with significant anglophone populations, said she received a French-only Canadian Tire catalogue at her home, which is in a city with a majority anglophone population.

Kovac is encouraging those who want an English catalogue to call Canadian Tire customer service at 1-800-387-8803. But she also pointed out that sending out many English-language catalogues, after having sent out French-language catalogues en masse already, could cost the company a great deal of money.

The Suburban contacted Canadian Tire media relations but has not yet received a reply. However, those who did write to the company received the following reply from customer service:

“Canadian Tire is not printing bilingual catalogues at this time and we legally can’t distribute an English flyer/catalogues in the province of Quebec. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. As requested, we are going to send you a copy of the English catalogue. Please note this will take between three to four weeks to receive. In the meantime, the Canadian Tire WOW guide is easily accessible on the Canadian Tire website at canadiantire.ca/wow or on the Canadian Tire mobile app.” IKEA also sends out English catalogues on request.”

Bill 101’s Section 52 does indeed state “Catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories and any similar publications must be drawn up in French.” Notably, the passage does not say “only in French,” and the company has responded that it has no plans to print a bilingual catalogue.

Staviss pointed out Monday to Canadian Tire that there are exceptions to Section 52, including: “Catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories and any similar publications may be in two separate versions, one exclusively in French, the other exclusively in another language, provided that the material presentation of the French version is available under no less favourable conditions of accessibility and quality than the version in the other language.

“However, the version exclusively in another language may be inserted in a news publication published exclusively in that language,” the law also says. “It may also be sent to any natural person having made a written request to receive such documents in that other language. In addition, catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories and any similar publications intended for persons belonging to the same ethnical group may be written only in the language of such group.”

Based on this, Staviss wrote to Canadian Tire that a bilingual catalogue would seem to be legal.

“It may perhaps be in Canadian Tire’s best interest to get an opinion from your lawyers,” Staviss wrote to the company. “Wouldn’t it be so inclusive indeed if Canadian Tire would print a bilingual catalogue and mass mail it to Canadians from coast to coast to coast? How wonderful it would be if Canadian Tire would show equal respect to both of Canada’s official languages.”

Many who have posted about the issue on Facebook have been placing the blame for the situation on Quebec’s language laws. Others have said Canadian Tire should print a bilingual catalogue.

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