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The decline of French will be “rapidly reversed”, says Quebec

Photo: Karoline Boucher The Canadian Press “We saw that French as a working language, as a consumer language, as a mother tongue… all these indicators were in decline,” underlined Jean-François Roberge, during a press conference held in Montreal on Sunday, on April 28, 2024.

Francois Carabin

Posted at 4:54 p.m. Updated at 6:38 p.m.

  • Quebec

The decline of French is already being reversed, maintains the Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, who however refuses to set a precise timetable for achieving his objectives. “I think we will reverse the decline very quickly,” he said on Sunday.

The elected official from the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) s was surrounded by his five fellow ministers from the Action Group for the Future of the French Language (GAALF) in order to present to the press the action plan on which they had been working together since January 2023. The fruit of their work is a document of around twenty pages, punctuated by 21 measures — all previously budgeted — aimed at “slowing down”, “stopping”, then “reversing the decline of French in Quebec”.

“We’re going on the offensive. Not against anyone, but to regain lost ground,” underlined Mr. Roberge from Montreal, alongside his colleagues at Immigration, Christine Fréchette, at Higher Education, Pascale Déry, at Education , Bernard Drainville, for Culture, Mathieu Lacombe, as well as for International Relations and the Francophonie, Martine Biron.

The GAALF action plan, entitled “In Quebec, the future is written in French”, will have a total budget of $603 million over five years. However, those who were hoping for new announcements on Sunday did not have much to eat; the nine priorities established by the government had been supplemented by measures largely already announced. Rare novelty: Minister Roberge is committed to setting up a dashboard — as several of his colleagues have already done — on the health of French.

“Now we are going to see the indicators,” rejoiced the CAQ elected official on Sunday. “And I hope that, very quickly, there will be indicators in which we will see the curve bend. »

In presenting the members of his action group, more than a year ago, Minister Roberge did not hide his ambition. “When the action plan is submitted, there will definitely be a timetable” to reverse the decline of French, he said.

The document tabled on Sunday does not contain any timetable of this type, which does not prevent Minister Roberge from saying that his government's actions are bearing fruit. “As soon as we arrived, in 2018, we took very, very important actions for the French language. We do not yet measure all the effects of the actions we took in the first mandate, with “law 96”, even if only what we did in the workplace, signage and other measures that are being implemented. I think that the changes are well and truly underway,” he argued.

The lion's share of francization

In the eyes of the Legault government, the GAALF action plan constitutes a second step in the fight against the decline of French, after the adoption in 2022 of its reform of the French language, “law 96”. This included a series of measures to ensure the use of the language of Molière at work, in English-speaking CEGEPs and among immigrants, in particular.

The latter are also at the top of government priorities, if we rely on the allocation of funds from the brand new Plan for the French language. Mr. Roberge will spend the lion's share of the envelope at his disposal to strengthen the knowledge of the language among immigrants, in a context where the organization responsible for francization in Quebec is dragging its feet.

In total, $320 million will be allocated over a period of five years to “deploy the Francisation Québec offer” and require, as had already been announced, knowledge of French among temporary workers under the jurisdiction of Quebec, with the exception of those in the agricultural sector. In January, Le Devoirreported that the delays in obtaining courses had exploded at Francisation Québec, the organization created by Québec to centralize and “manage government action” in this area.

With its new budget, Francisation Québec will be able to hire more teachers and offer more “learning modes”, in businesses and upstream of the immigration process, according to the Minister of Immigration, Christine Fréchette. “We are in a continuous hiring process, because we want to reduce the waiting time,” she said on Sunday, while rejoicing that today there are “around of 750 teachers” in francization when Francisation Québec was hired.

“It was in the 500s when I took up the position. So, that’s what a leap it was,” she said.

“Not frozen in time »

In addition to immigration, the measures included in Quebec's action plan for the French language relate to education, culture and diplomacy, among others. Among the actions already announced: the upcoming tabling of a bill to ensure the discoverability of content in French on digital platforms like Netflix and Spotify, and the revision of prices for non-Quebec academics, for example.< /p>

“We arrive with a considerable budget,” remarked Mr. Roberge on Sunday, while assuring that his plan would be updated in the future. “We’re not frozen in time,” he said. “Other actions and measures […] are likely to be presented to you. »

Questioned on Sunday about the Legault government's plan, the spokesperson for the Liberal Party of Quebec on French language matters, Madwa-Nika Cadet, deplored “the lack of seriousness” of the Caquists.

“The plan for the French language presented by the CAQ today is disappointing and sorely lacks ambition and vision. Despite a significant delay in its publication, none of the 21 measures announced bring anything new,” she said.

In a statement sent on Sunday, the MP of Québec solidaire Ruba Ghazal said she was “very disappointed with the absence [in the plan] of structuring measures to strengthen French as a working language.” “I once again invite the CAQ to establish a compulsory francization program during working hours. The business community, which benefits from the labor force of temporary foreign workers, must do its part in the collective effort of francization,” she said.

“This morning's announcement had nothing to do with a plan that could slow down or reverse the decline of French, but all about a public relations operation,” added PQ MP Pascal Bérubé, on the social network -Twitter).

Created in January 2023, the Action Group for the Future of the French Language held four official meetings, in addition to carrying out consultations , before presenting its roadmap, which was originally supposed to appear last fall.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116