Canada Province Seeks To Fortify French Language In Decline

In this file photo a young fan holds a sign reading “Phoenix I love you” as French band Phoenix performs on stage during the Festival d’ETE Concert in Quebec City on July 12, 2018. (Photo by Alice Chiche / AFP)


Canada’s Quebec province on Thursday unveiled sweeping legislation aimed at curbing the decline of the French language in the former French colony, particularly in Montreal where businesses are using English more and more.

The bill is a revamp of a 1977 law, reaffirming French as Quebec’s main language and promoting its use locally on signage, in education and in workplaces.


“The French language is in decline across parts of our society,” Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec minister responsible for the French language, said at the bill’s unveiling.

The updated law, he said, “affirms that French is the only official language in Quebec and the common language of the Quebec nation.”

Quebec, settled by French explorers in the 16th century, remains a bastion of the language of Moliere in majority anglophone Canada and the United States.

“For centuries, the defense of French has been essential for the survival and the development of our nation,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault said.

“The government of Quebec is the only one in North America that represents a majority of francophones and that comes with duties,” he said.

The more than 200 reforms in the bill include a cap on the number of English students in post-secondary education, increased access to French language training, making French predominant on commercial signage, and requiring most businesses to serve customers and file paperwork in French.

If passed, the bill would also create a Ministry of the French language and a French Language Commissioner.

The Office quebecois de la langue francaise found greetings of people in French in Montreal stores fell from 84.2 percent in 2010 to 74.6 percent in 2017.

French is also in slight decline in homes, with 71.2 percent of Quebecers saying they speak French with their family and friends, down from 72.8 percent five years earlier, according to Statistics Canada.


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