Hey, ’New Yorker’: En français, please

Quebecers aren’t allowed to submit captions for the magazine’s famous cartoons

Anyone who has ever tried to come up with a zinger for The New Yorker’s caption contest knows how challenging it is to seem effortlessly clever. Quebecers, though, will be further frustrated should they come up with a suitably droll caption for the magazine’s weekly back page cartoon. It turns out they are barred from the exercise, which welcomes “any resident of the U.S. or Canada (except Quebec) age eighteen or over.”

Some Quebecers may be tempted to suggest an anti-Quebec bias is at work. The New Yorker, after all, famously ran a lengthy article by Mordecai Richler in 1994, decrying the province’s language laws and history of anti-Semitism. Reality, though, is more banal. The Quebec government requires companies to register their contests with the province’s gaming authority, something done to “protect people who participate,” says Joyce Tremblay, spokesperson for the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux.

Rather than navigate Quebec’s red tape, some companies are deciding to skip it altogether. “The same thing happened last year,” says Tremblay, miffed that The New Yorker has “decided to exclude Quebec.” The NFL had a contest for Super Bowl tickets, and “Quebec was excluded then, too,” she says.

No slight intended, New Yorker general counsel Lynn Oberlander told Maclean’s in an email. “The province of Quebec has different regulations for contests than the rest of Canada [and than the U.S.] requiring, I believe, contest rules to be available in French, among other things. Accordingly, we have found it difficult to ensure that we are in compliance with their regulations.” Informed that Tremblay was disappointed by Quebec’s exclusion, Oberlander promised to look further into the matter. Sounds a bit like a New Yorker cartoon, doesn’t it?