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The crowd waves Quebec flags at St-Jean-Baptiste Day festivities in Quebec City in 2009.FRANCIS VACHON/The Globe and Mail

Quebeckers might feel like their vision is fuzzy these days when they read that their province has been lumped in with North Korea, Syria and Sudan on a list of ineligible sites for a National Geographic photo contest.

The fine print for the magazine's "Explore our Changing World" contest has caused something of an online stir this week in La Belle Province.

It's not the first time a contest has avoided the province because of its strict rules. So now Quebec has found itself on a contest blacklist that includes Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

And the provincial government isn't thrilled.

"It's a bit troubling," said Joyce Tremblay, a spokeswoman for the provincial commission that oversees contests, the Regie des alcools, des courses et des jeux.

It's not a new phenomenon. Some contest-makers have avoided Quebec over the years because of strict rules governing how those competitions are run in the province. The rules have been in place since 1978 and are designed to protect consumers and ensure prizes are paid out.

Some of those rules include deposits for certain contests depending on where they're being held; registering advertisements before contests begin; and allowing the government to mediate any lawsuits that may stem from contests.

Given those rules and the potential costs associated, some sponsors aren't willing to deal with Quebec, despite the fact it remains the country's second-most-populous province.

But Tremblay said the decision to leave Quebeckers out of the contest was misguided.

She said that since National Geographic is running a photography contest – and not a commercial contest, with cash prizes – the media organization didn't face the same rules and would not have had to pay any fees.

"This contest wasn't subject to our rules," Tremblay said.

"Sadly, they decided to exclude Quebec without checking the facts because they were afraid they'd have to pay."

Quebec is the only jurisdiction in Canada to have such rules.

But plenty of other contests work within the province's rules without any trouble.

Tremblay said some 8,866 contests were authorized and held in Quebec last year alone, with large operations like McDonald's and Tim Hortons holding their popular contests like Monopoly and Roll Up the Rim in the province, just like elsewhere in Canada.

Since getting lumped in with places like North Korea and Syria isn't great for the province's reputation, Tremblay said she hopes companies take the time to call and get the right information.

"They don't even take two minutes to call and sometimes the amounts [to pay] are quite minimal," Tremblay said.

The prestigious magazine's contest runs for three weeks this month and asks photographers to document change.

The prizes include getting a photo published in the magazine as well as a trip to New Mexico to take part in a photography seminar.

"It's a little bit sad," Tremblay said.

"But it's National Geographic that decided to put us [Quebec] there because they wouldn't have had to pay anything."

National Geographic did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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