OPINION: All Quebecers have a responsibility to preserve, protect and promote French


All Quebecers have a responsibility to preserve, protect and promote French

Submitted by Eva Ludvig, president, Quebec Community Groups Network

Mark Twain famously wrote there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics – expressing his frustration at how the selective use of statistics proves almost anything, including opposing viewpoints.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government, language hardliners and those who seek to achieve Quebec’s independence have relied on certain statistics to cement the notion that the French language in Quebec, especially in Montreal, is in peril.

This becomes the justification for harsh legislative measures to “protect” French by curtailing English, restricting access to services in English – including health, education and justice – and damaging “English” institutions like McGill, Concordia and Bishop’s University.

In a propitious bit of timing, on the same day the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) held a conference to discuss the status of French here [on April 4], no less an authority than the Office québécoise de la langue française (OQLF) reported the proportion of Quebec’s population using French in public has been stable in Quebec since 2007 at about 80 per cent, and the proportion of those using English only in the public sphere has dropped over the same period.

In other words, the draconian measures contained in Bill 96 haven’t changed anything, weren’t necessary and missed the target.

The QCGN has been arguing this for some time.

Featuring one of the editors and two contributors to an increasingly widely read book, Le Français en déclin? Repenser la francophonie québécoise, the conference heard that while French will always be fragile because of its minority status in a sea of North American English, the statistics the government emphasizes – mother-tongue language and language spoken at home – don’t reflect the reality of Quebec’s public sphere. The OQLF numbers do.

The percentage of mother-tongue francophones has declined, along with the birth rate among historic Québécois descendants, while immigration has soared in recent years, said Jean-Pierre Corbeil, a sociology professor at Université Laval and one of the book’s editors. Therefore, he said, focusing on Quebec’s English-speaking population is an error. 

The evening of the event was slushy and snowy, on a night filled with nuance – appropriate, because there are no hard and fast, cut-and-dried answers to most questions about language.

It was heartening to see the degree to which the speakers shared the QCGN view that all Quebecers, regardless of mother tongue or origin, have a responsibility to preserve, protect and promote the French language – and that doing so does not require the repression of English, which will always be a part of Quebec society, as it has been for more than 300 years.

It was also encouraging to sense that this event marked a positive step in the necessary effort to find a common cause between all Quebecers, [to build] a harmonious place where all rights and privileges are respected, where no one is less a citizen because of the language they were born speaking.

Because, as full-fledged Quebecers, English speakers also have a vested interest in this essential element of Quebecers’ identity.


OPINION: All Quebecers have a responsibility to preserve, protect and promote French was last modified: April 23rd, 2024 by QCT Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *