Originally created 06/19/97

Quebec's language police expands patrol to Internet



MONTREAL (AP) - The agency that enforces Quebec's language laws has warned a computer store that its English-language Web site violates a law requiring businesses to use French.

The owners of Micro-Bytes Logiciels were given until July 2 to provide a French version of the Web site or face a fine of up to $1,000.

The store initially decided to shut down the home page, but has reinstated it after supporters encouraged them through e-mail messages, phone calls and visits.

"It's totally a matter of principle," said store manager Marc Silverman. "I got a lot of French supporters telling me they have French Web pages on the Internet and they're going to translate them into English-only pages."

The watchdog agency - known among Quebec's English-speaking minority as the language police - has received a wave of electronic hate mail since reports of the May 29 warning surfaced in the Montreal media last weekend, agency spokesman Gerald Paquette said.

"It's not pleasant, but we're used to it," he said.

The agency contends the computer store's Web site didn't comply with a section of the language law requiring that catalogs brochures and other commercial publications be in French.

Paquette said the Internet hadn't been mentioned specifically in the law, but has now been included.

"The question right now is whether Quebec has the right to control what goes on the Internet," Silverman said. "Our position is, `No, they don't have that right."'

The store is working on a bilingual home page, but store owner Morty Grauer said he wasn't sure if it would be ready by July 2.

Roughly 83 percent of Quebec's 7.1 million people are French-speakers.

The separatist provincial government has taken an active role in trying to promote French on the Internet.

Though Quebec is home to only about 5 percent of the world's francophones, it claims to have created about 30 percent of French-language Web sites.

"We must do things for ourselves, " said Quebec Culture Minister Louise Beaudoin. "Francophones mustn't just be consumers. They must become producers.

"If we don't do it ourselves, someone else will do it in our place."