October 6, 2022

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In Quebec, too, the Moliere language is falling back in favor of English

New figures reveal that the French language continues to decline in Canada, as in Quebec, while the number of people whose first language is English has surpassed one million in the province. The unprecedented situation comes amid intensified efforts to preserve the Moliere language in Quebec.

French”Take a dig“The decline of Francophonie in Quebec and across Canada is revealed by recent statistics. Statistics Canada federal government agency, released on Wednesday, August 17. These indicate that the proportion of Canadians who speak French at home is declining across the country (except for the sparsely populated Yukon Territory in the far north).

The growth of the population where French is the first official language (1.6% from 2016 to 2021) is lower than the Canadian population growth (5.2%). As for the proportion of Canadians speaking French as their first official language, it has fallen from 22.2% to 21.4% in five years.

The trend is there Nothing is new. Since 1971, the population of French in Canada has been declining. QuebecSince 2001, a historically French-speaking province, according to Statistics Canada.

Federal languages ​​minister Jeanette Petitpass Taylor said the census data was “alarming”. According to him, more than ever, French is under threat in Canada, including Quebec.

Last March, the minister tabled a bill to modernize the Official Languages ​​Act, in line with his promise to fight the “decline of French”. Among the ways studied: the recognition of French as the official language of Quebec, the recognition of the bilingual status of New Brunswick (the Eastern Maritime Province), or the bilingualism of judges at the Supreme Court of Canada.

French “loses feathers” in favor of English

In Quebec, the proportion of people who use English as their first spoken language has increased by 1% in five years to pass the milestone of one million speakers. The statistic of the first language spoken at home – the most important indicator of the linguistic situation – shows that the English-speaking population increased by 1.2 million, while the French-speaking population increased by only 120. 000 individuals, ten times less. .

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“The underlying phenomenon behind the increase in English and the weakness of the increase in French is linguistic integration and the power to assimilate English disproportionately to French across Canada,” explained Thursday, researcher and statistician Charles Castonguay. on Canadian Radio. About three million allophones (native speakers of a foreign language in the community in which they live, editor’s note) adopt English as their main language spoken at home, and nearly half a million French speakers adopt English as their home language. Language, he continues. Across Canada, French does not feather the scales in terms of linguistic integration to the benefit of English.”

Indeed, newcomers who do not speak French or English tend to lean toward English, especially immigrants on the island of Montreal, where a quarter of Quebec’s population lives. However, Charles Castonguay notes that young francophones’ attraction to English is growing. “On the island of Montreal, 6% of young people whose mother tongue is French say they have adopted English as their main language at home,” he says. They are anglicized, which feeds the population of the English-speaking group and weakens the weight of French on the island of Montreal, where native French lost 5% between the 2001 and 2016 censuses. In history”, laments the expert. The speed and extent of the collapse.

Immigration and low birth rates

With insufficient birth rates to ensure the renewal of their linguistic cohorts, francophone and anglophone communities rely on immigration to fill their positions.

Maintaining a linguistic balance, the share of French in the overall integration rises to more than 90%, while it was around 50%, explains Charles Castonguay in his “Le français en chute libre, la new language dynamics in Quebec” (French Quebec). movement). The first factor in the decline of French in Quebec, according to him, is the significant increase in immigration since the beginning of the 21st century. “Immigrants struggling to Frenchize”, he already mentioned last year TV5 World.

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Protected by the Government of Canada An immigration strategy Support the integration of French-speaking newcomers and build the capacity of francophone communities, with the aim of increasing francophone immigration to the country outside of Quebec, to reach a target of 4.4% by 2023.

But despite this favorable selection policy for French, the attraction of English remains strong and allophones still make linguistic transfers towards English, especially due to the high vitality of English in the labor market.

“As in the past, immigration has contributed to this trend, as most immigrants turn to English after arriving in the country.”

– An excerpt from Statistics Canada’s report on the 2021 Census

According to Charles Castonguay, it was necessary to take concrete measures to correct the situation of the French in the Quebec region, and French-speaking immigration in Canada would “fail”. In particular, the researcher considers it desirable to direct francophone immigration towards Quebec so that it benefits all Canadian francophones.

A “linguistic renaissance” without consequence?

The census was published against the backdrop of intense efforts to protect the French in Quebec. The last linguistic law, Act 96 Adopted on May 23, it restricts the use of English in government services, businesses and public spaces, makes learning French a fundamental right and duty of all immigrants and Anglophones, and requires businesses to favor French in their stores.

The law is set to come into effect from September 1, specifically, and will cover all companies with 25 to 49 employees. Charter of the French Language of 1977 (making French the “official language” of Quebec), as well as businesses subject to federal jurisdiction, such as banks. A text that is perceived by English speakers as a new act of “retrieval” is considered discriminatory against English speakers and allophones.

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So the debate on language is a very sensitive and explosive matter CanadaAn officially bilingual country, thousands of demonstrators protested against Act 96 last May.

“This is the beginning of a great linguistic renaissance,” said Simon Jolin-Barrett, the minister carrying the law, and qualified the law as a “first step” toward a French-speaking Quebec. According to him, the figures released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday demonstrate the “all relevance of Act 96,” he responded on Twitter on Thursday.


When adopting the law, Quebec’s Premier François Legault went so far as to raise a question of “survival”, estimating that without a linguistic framework Quebec would undergo “Lucianization”. at This state in South America was once the majority language of FrenchIt has almost become an extinct language.