A 17-year-old named Xavier Ménard has started his own graphic-design
company. Although I don’t know him (nor speak his language) I’m very
fond of this Xavier guy. This young entrepreneur is against some tough
odds. For starters, he’s a small-business owner in one of the most
heavily regulated, excessively taxed provinces of Canada. Canada is hard
enough to do business in, let alone doing business in Quebec. But this
entrepreneur is determined and I hope his graphic-design company
succeeds beyond his wildest dreams.
Unfortunately it’s gotten off to a rocky start. Xavier’s company is
named Wellarc. “Wellarc” is a loose combination of the French words: web, langage, logo, artistique and compagnie.
Merging words like this is common in French as well as German, as
readers of Ludwig von Mises are well aware of. Regardless of its
origins, it’s pretty obvious that in a free society, Xavier can name his
business whatever he wants. If he names it something incredibly
offensive, it’s unlikely he’ll get customers. Nevertheless, it is within
his right to do so.
But Quebec is pretty fascist. The Quebecois, or French-Canadians,
I’ve met in Canmore (there’s a lot of them) are pretty open about the
blatant corruption in their province. It’s not taboo to say that the mob
controls a large portion of the provincial and municipal governments.
But the kind of corruption that Xavier is up against is more subtle. It
involves Bill 101, the “Charter of the French Language,” which dictates
that all Quebec companies must have French names. “Wellarc,” has been
targeted as sounding “too English.”
“It’s harder and harder for a company, especially in Quebec, to have a
representative name, because all the French words have already been
used,” said Xavier in an interview. “We said, ‘We want to sell outside
Quebec, so we will build a bilingual word using French words.’ You can
say Wellarc in French or in English. It sounds good in both languages.”
But the Registraire des entreprises does not agree. Apparently the
controversy is over the first part of the name: “well.” Unless Xavier
can afford the costs to go to court over the issue (like Walmart, Costco
and Best Buy have), he’ll have to conform to the demands of
bureaucrats. And he’s not the only one. Revenu Québec reports that 9% of
requests to register new companies are rejected on the grounds that
they violate Bill 101. That’s 12,000 rejections a year.
Xavier Ménard is not going down without a fight. He’s been on YouTube reporting
on the petty tyranny of this decision. “I’m seriously starting to find
the situation just a little ridiculous,” he says, “I’m not necessarily
challenging the good intentions behind Bill 101, but I find the means
used a little idiotic… I’m supposed to be happy because the French
language is protected against evil anglophone capitalists — like me.
Really… What’s the advantage to Quebecers of being able to speak French
in the workplace if they don’t even have a workplace to go to?”
Xavier understands economics. Quebec bureaucrats do not. If Quebec is
going to prosper as a distinct culture – whether a part of Canada or
not – then these fascists need to step out of the way and allow
entrepreneurs like Xavier Ménard generate some real prosperity.
As a side note, the National Post reports that Xavier is “fiercely opposed to the PQ government, he describes himself as a right-of-centre sovereigntist.
He believes sovereignty is the best way for Quebec to ensure the
survival of its language and culture.” The emphasis is mine; I hope to
see more of these “right-of-centre” sovereigntists become more
influential Quebec politics. Are Mises’ and Rothbard’s works available
in French? Anybody want to translate?