French language activist group slams Elections Canada greeting policy

A man enters a polling station during the Burnaby South federal by-election in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

An organization that fights to preserve the French language in Quebec is irked by an Elections Canada policy that instructs officers and poll clerks to greet electors with “hello, bonjour”.

CTV reports that Mouvement Quebec Francais (MQF) calls the policy “unacceptable.” However, Elections Canada regional media relations director Pierre Pilon told the outlet that it’s standard protocol for Service Canada employees to welcome citizens in both official languages.

"It's not any different from any other service in Canada," he said, adding that election clerks throughout the country are expected to use the same greeting on Oct. 21.

Instructions in the Deputy Returning Officer & Poll Clerk Guidebook states that when an elector arrives, clerks must "Greet elector by saying, 'Hello, bonjour'" and then ask for their name and address. This was the same directives given in the 2015 election.

But for MQF president Maxime Laporte, the greetings are not welcomed. He’s calling on Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault to change the policy.

"Elections Canada is sorely lacking in respect to the people of Quebec who wish to see the status of their official language, French, advanced in public spaces rather than regress," Laporte told CTV.

Pilon retorted that such a move would involve changing the federal elections legislation.