Measures to deal with rising English tide coming, says language minister
Speaking just two days before Statistics Canada released the latest census figures suggesting an ongoing decline in the use of French in the Montreal region, Quebec language minister Diane De Courcy said at the time that a lack of hard evidence made it difficult for her to state if the new Parti Québécois government would be taking action to deal with a situation in Laval which has contributed to an apparent rise in English.
Two days later
But what a difference 48 hours make. While that was on Oct. 22., De Courcy told journalists during a press conference in Montreal on Oct. 24 that the newly-released census figures bear out longstanding suspicions from within her party that various efforts made by previous Quebec governments to reverse a perceived decline of French haven’t worked and that now a much tougher version of Bill 101 will have to be drafted to deal with the issue.
According to Statistics Canada, which released the 2011 census figures on that same day, the number of persons in Laval who speak mostly English at home has risen since the last census a decade ago by exactly 1 per cent to 12.9 per cent. On the other hand, the use of French as the first language at home in Laval declined by 6 per cent to 65.2. The number of persons in Laval whose first language at home is something other than French or English rose by 1.7 per cent. Nearly 15 per cent of Laval’s population is now in this category.
In an interview with journalists from Laval following her stop at Collège Montmorency, De Courcy, who is touring the province to consult on the language question in the regions, said she asked administrators at Collège Montmorency to tell her what they could do about Laval’s anglicization. “I received answers which are more in the order of perception or of impression,” she recounted. “Unfortunately we have done no investigation yet which might tell us whether it really is the case.
But perception plays on people’s insecurities, she suggested. “At a certain point it becomes a truth because it is an impression which seems certain about something. But interestingly, at this stage I am told that it’s around fifty-fifty. Some have told me yes, others have told me no, or that it’s just a false impression. But I am also told that there is another phenomenon at work – that this isn’t necessarily anglicization, but the retreat of the French language. There could be problems with this since immigration creates a propensity to want to live in several languages to better facilitate more fluid communication.”
Truth or a perception?
De Courcy said that most people she spoke to while on her stop at the college seemed to agree that intelligent discussion on the issue is needed. “We will need objective data to allow us to move forward. However, it is enough of a perception and/or a belief so that we have ample grounds to further investigate.” She wouldn’t say when such an investigation might take place or what form it would take.
In interviews in the following days with other media, De Courcy said it would be necessary to strengthen provincial regulations on the language of work. But she also said exceptions might be allowed for the use of English in the workplace at certain businesses out of consideration for Quebec’s integration into the global economy. But she also suggested that the PQ government doesn’t look kindly on businesses which make it a requirement for its employees to be bilingual.
Work language issue
The Office québécois de la langue française plans to release figures sometime this fall on the state of the French language in the province’s work places. In the meantime, Bloc Québécois MP for Ahuntsic Maria Mourani contends that an increased use of English by francophones and allophones in Quebec, as reflected in the latest census results, is caused by a rising demand among employers for employees with a working knowledge of English, even though French is officially the language of work in the province.