(Adds comments from government and Wal-Mart, context on French language laws, description of implications for retailers)
By Kevin Dougherty
MONTREAL, May 3 (Reuters) - Canada’s predominantly French-language province of Quebec will require retail stores with English brand names such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc to display some French on their outdoor signage, the provincial government said on Tuesday.
Quebec’s Liberal government plans to alter the province’s language laws so retailers with English names will have to add a French description of what they are selling, but will not have to change their trademarks.
The changes are expected to be adopted in 2016, but there will be a three-year grace period for companies to comply, it said.
The move comes after the Quebec government lost court cases in 2014 and 2015 against a group of big-box retailers that declined to add French to their signage.
Quebec, the only North American jurisdiction with a French-speaking majority, has laws to ensure French is used in the workplace, learned by newcomers and remains predominant in the province’s largest city, Montreal.
“We are in Quebec, not Maine or Massachusetts,” Quebec’s Language Minister Hélène David told reporters in Montreal.
She said the changes would ensure “French is visible everywhere in Quebec.”
Xavier Piusviex, president of Wal-Mart for Eastern Canada, said on Tuesday that the company would be adding the slogan “Économiser plus,” or “Save More,” in French to its Quebec stores.
David also said 21 businesses, including retailers, were consulted last fall on the changes, which would apply to an estimated 1,860 companies with trade names in English or another language.
However, government officials said there would be an exception for family names, which means the new rules would not apply to McDonald’s Corp, Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons or the law firm Norton Rose. They did not explain why the laws would not apply to these particular businesses. (Additional reporting by Allison Lampert; editing by Leslie Adler, G Crosse)