Government forces Canadian restaurant to stop free meal program for those in need because vouchers were only written in English

A Canadian restaurant has been forced to halt its free meal program for those in need because the government clamped down on the establishment since the vouchers were only written in English.

Abdul Rashia Khan is the owner of Mama Khan restaurant in Montreal, Canada.

Khan developed a “pay it forward program,” where customers could donate at least $5 and he would offer free meal vouchers to those in need of food. The vouchers would be hung on the wall for anyone to use as a credit for a free meal. The charity program started last year.

Khan said of the program, “It was very successful. We have given out over 712 free meals.”

Khan – who wanted to be a social worker when he was young – noted that charity is a critical part of the Pakistani restaurant that he runs with his mother.

His family-run restaurant also handed out free meals during the 2023 ice storm and offered free meals to people during power outages.

While working 90 hours a week, Khan spent $400 to have a professional graphic designer create the vouchers and have them printed out.

However, the government warned Khan that he would be penalized for his free meal charity because the vouchers were only written in English.

Khan reportedly received a warning letter from the Office québécois de la langue française – the language law enforcement authorities of the area.

The government allegedly informed Khan that commercial publications in Quebec must prioritize French. Promotions that are only in English are subject to fines.

Khan told the Global News, “My reaction was kind of surprised that we were reported to the government saying that we are not bilingual.”

He added, “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 I’m the owner.”

Apparently, the Office québécois de la langue française did not target Mama Khan, but reportedly received a tip on Facebook that their vouchers were only in English.

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

Khan reacted by saying, “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.”

The Mama Khan restaurant released a statement on Instagram regarding the ongoing situation:

Due to amount of people who are asking and asked what happened, I’ve just spoken to the person who received the complaints and she was amazing, she told me exactly what happened and what triggered us being warned. Thank you to those who support us and I apologize for halting future services due to not trying to get penalized for what we do. We have given out 712 free meals and helped 11 kids with our tutoring program.

Khan said the vouchers are no longer available, but people in need can come into his restaurant and still get a free meal anyway.

Khan declared, “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.”

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