Quebec restaurant giving out free meals stops program out of fear of provincial language police

The restaurant owner says that someone complained to the language watchdog after social media posts were made in English by his Mama Khan restaurant.

Quebec restaurant giving out free meals stops program out of fear of provincial language police
Instagram / mamakhanmt
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A Montreal restaurant owner says he will stop his free meal initiative after a crackdown by the Quebec language police.

"It was very successful. We have given out over 712 free meals," Abdul Rashia Khan of the Mama Khan restaurant told Global News.

Khan said he has always had an interest in social work and that charity is a key part of the Pakistani restaurant he and his mother run.

The restaurant's owners say that they gave out free meals during the April 2023 ice storm, and even offered free meals during the power outage as part of his "pay it forward" program.

He says every time someone donates at least five dollars, free meal vouchers would go up on the wall for anyone to use.

The wall is now empty after he got a warning by the Office quebecois de la langue francaise, infamously dubbed the "language police."

"My reaction was kind of surprised that we were reported to the government saying that we are not bilingual," Khan said.

He says that someone complained to the language watchdog after social media posts were made in English by the Mama Khan restaurant, and the OQLF sent him a letter reminding him that commercial publications in any language other than French are not permitted unless French is most prominent.

“I wasn’t aware too much of the law. It’s my first time running a business. It’s been a year and a half [that] I’m the owner,” he said.

The vouchers were only in English, so out of fear of being fined by the Legault-run language police, he took them down, with hundreds never going to use.

"It cost me around $400 to print them out, to have them designed by a graphic designer. I work 90 hours per week, I have no time to do marketing myself. It's a family-run restaurant," he explained.

Khan has since received an outpouring of support, including from Jason Lee of Shut Up and Eat Montreal, who said he thought the situation was a "joke."

“I plan to head down there and add a few tickets of my own, and sponsor a few tickets to him. Hopefully that helps.”

The language police's office clarified to Global that the meal ticket program was not targeted by the bureau.

“The Office did not ask the restaurant Mama Khan to destroy its meal coupons. The program was never discussed with the business,” said OQLF spokesperson François Laberge.

“The only thing I can do from here and moving on forward is just to learn from my mistakes and make sure it’s in bilingual or in French,” said Khan.

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