Quebec will invest in protecting French. Critics say that the province monitors the private sphere

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While Quebec says it will “go on the offensive” to protect the French, announcing as much as $600 million over five years on Sunday, some critics say the data the government is using lacks nuance and that the province is “overseeing remains in the private sphere’.

At a press conference, Quebec’s French Language Minister Jean-François Roberge said the government’s mission is to strengthen the vitality of the French language through various measures, some of which have already been announced and some of which are already in effect, with a price tag. of $603 million.

Roberge said the province’s “action plan” is intended to counter what the government calls a decline in the use of the language. “It is important to mention that we no longer defend the French language,” the minister said. “We are going on the offensive, not against anyone, but to regain lost ground and reverse the decline.”

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French Prime Minister and Premier of Quebec share common views on the French language and secularism

But some critics, such as constitutional rights lawyer Julius Gray, told Global News on Monday that French is not actually declining.

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Gray says he, like most Quebecers, has no problem with the provincial government wanting to protect the country. But what he does take issue with, he says, is the reason, or lack thereof, behind this move.

Sylvia Martin Laforge of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) agrees, telling Global that the organization believes the protection and promotion of French in the province are both important, but that the government is not using the right statistics to explain the decline to argue.

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She told Global News that the statistics the government relies on and presented to the public need to be interpreted with more nuance, and that different data tells different stories.

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“According to the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) report last April, the share of Quebecers who use French in the public sphere has been stable for more than a decade, since 2007, at around 80 percent,” Martin said Laforge .

“And actually, the share of people who prefer to use English in the public sphere actually fell by two percentage points over the same period,” she said.

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Although the 2021 census data shows that the number of people speaking French at home fell from 83 percent to 79 percent between 2016 and 2021, she says the government should be more concerned with the public sphere than the private sphere – which some do too. argument is an overreach by the government.

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“The statistics need to be nuanced in what we measure and we need to look at the coercive measures that are used. Coercive measures to make people speak French in their private homes and private lives are not okay.”

However, the percentage of Quebecers whose native language is English has increased from 12 percent in the same period to 13 percent, according to Statistics Canada.

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To address this, measures announced by the Quebec government include monitoring language trends, improving students’ language proficiency and boosting French cultural offerings.

Some of the measures are also immigration-related, including increasing the percentage of economic immigrants who speak French and accelerating permanent residency for international students graduating from French-language programs.

Where the money goes

Of the $603 million, more than half – $320 million – will be spent on teaching French to temporary immigrant workers and asylum seekers.

$187 million will go towards increasing “French-language cultural offerings” and making them more accessible. That includes funding cultural productions in Quebec, the province’s culture minister said, to counter the dominance of mainly English digital platforms.

Another $64.9 million will be spent on improving French education for students – with Education Minister Bernard Drainville saying some of it will go to English school boards (the amount is still unknown).

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Click to play the video: 'Is French declining in Quebec?'

Is French in decline in Quebec?

The province has announced it will also change the way it measures the state of the French language in the province, spending $18 million on a new type of digital report that will track the evolution of language data on an annual basis.

Other measures include a previously announced commitment to increase tuition fees for out-of-province Canadians by 30 percent and forcing universities to ensure that most of these students will be proficient in French when they graduate.

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The government has also said it will impose stricter French-language requirements on temporary workers and permanent immigrants from the economic stream.

– with files from The Canadian Press and Felicia Parrillo, Global News

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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