Starbucks menu controversy

A new Starbucks with a unilingual English menu in downtown Moncton has brought official bilingualism in the province front and centre once again.

Moncton’s fourth Starbucks, an international chain noted for its prolific expansion, has been criticized for offering menu boards in this restaurant exclusively in English. This is inconsistent with the other Moncton Starbucks locations.

In an interview with CBC, Carly Suppa, manager of public affairs with Starbucks said that all signs in the store should be bilingual, and that the company will be looking into what had happened.

Businesses in Moncton are under no legal obligation to erect bilingual signage. However, Moncton, while containing a 46.5 per cent Anglophone population, has a very large Francophone minority, sitting at 33.2 per cent. The number of primarily French-speaking people in the area rises dramatically when considering that many citizens of the neighbouring city of Dieppe, 73.9 per cent, identify as Francophone and often go to downtown Moncton for work or pleasure. Many people see bilingual signage as more inclusive of this sizeable portion of the population, as well as simply good business practice.

Jean-Sébastien Comeau, a francophone second-year Mount Allison University student from Dieppe, said, “I don’t think the unilingual menu will affect many people in the Greater Moncton Area, but instead it will affect the many people who visit from northern New Brunswick and speak only French.”

Mt. A Political Science Professor Geoff Martin explained, “What often happens is you have international chains that come into New Brunswick, and the French fact is invisible to them, and they go by standard operating procedures. They don’t realize that the francophone minority, and in various parts the majority, are very language conscious, and concerned about their rights in terms of government and the private sector.”

Dieppe, which forms part of the Greater Moncton Area, has passed a law which says that not only publicly placed signs need to be bilingual, but also all new corporate signs. French must be more prominent than English on all signs in Dieppe.

Proponents of these policies argue law is necessary in order to protect the French language and culture from being assimilated by the dominant English, while its detractors claim it violates their rights to free speech.

The area’s linguistic diversity led Moncton to be declared Canada’s first officially bilingual city in 2002. This was the same year that New Brunswick updated the Official Languages Act for the first time since 1969.

The New Brunswick Official Languages Act was updated once again this year, as per its mandated review every ten years. The changes were supported, in a rare step, by both the governing Conservatives and the opposition Liberals. While the changes clarified some ambiguities in the law, it did not dramatically alter the structure or content of the legislation. New Brunswick is Canada’s only officially bilingual province.

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