For a long while now I have been of the opinion that falsely claiming to sell Montreal bagels should be a serious crime (and I only half-jokingly advocate for it to be a capital offence), but it wasn’t until today that my arguments finally came together.
- There is no doubt about the crime or who committed it. In many court cases there is a battle to establish the relevance, legality, or accuracy of evidence brought by the prosecution. Not here. There is a perfect methodology to determine guilt in this matter: see the sign advertising a Montreal bagel for sale, observe the bagel to which it refers, eat that bagel, and be disappointed. Case closed. (It is not necessary to establish a list of criteria; Potter Stewart was actually talking about Montreal bagels.)
- Such false claims cause undue hardship on unsuspecting consumers. We require food manufacturers to label potentially-harmful additives, and to list every ingredient. If you cannot consume lactose, or gluten, or anything else — or if you simply don’t want to — you have a right as a consumer to know if it’s included in that product. This is all the more true if you do not want to consume inferior bagels — in fact, it is significantly more important to the everyday consumer. The first time you purchase a Montreal-style bagel outside of Montreal will be your last time. The fault lies entirely with the seller for pushing a misleading product.
- It contributes to a severely damaging form of trademark dilution. Imagine, if you will, typical non-resident first-year McGill or Concordia students, likely from the suburbs of Toronto, or perhaps Alberta. They have encountered Montreal-style bagels in their home supermarket, and (rightly) consider them to be unremarkable. So when they are offered a real one for the first time, they will decline, because they believe Montreal bagels are just like any other bread. They may go four years without such an experience, and then they will leave the city, and never have the opportunity again. Thousands of Canadians per year, driven away from authentic Montreal bagels. This would not happen if their home bagels were labelled properly.
There are other arguments in favour of criminalizing this practice, but these are the three most relevant, and together they are sufficient.