[Chronique de Jean-François Lisée] Non-attendance at endangered language


What is good with the historians of the future is that we can make them say what we want. So here I go: for historians of the future, the Quebec elections of 2022 were decisive. On October 3, it was decided to let the French decline irretrievably.

I can easily imagine one saying this: “The review of party platforms and speeches from the 2022 campaign offers a powerful paradox. While Statistics Canada had just confirmed, in August, a heavy trend of decline in French, the policies proposed by four of the five main parties could only accelerate this trend. Everything unfolded as if the bulk of the political class, including the party most likely to regain power, not only refused to take head on what should have been the most important issue for the nation — its linguistic survival in its metropolis — but competed in ingenuity to feed the conditions for the decline of the language. »

The demographer Guillaume Marois has integrated the immigration thresholds promised by the various parties into the model of the INRS’s Demographic Simulations Laboratory. This allows him to predict the effects on Quebec and the greater Montreal area.

Result: if we choose the 50,000 immigrants per year from the CAQ or the Conservative Party, the proportion of Francophones in the 82 cities in the Montreal region would drop from 65% in 2021 to 59% in 2061. The 70,000 from the PLQ and the 80,000 from Québec solidaire would bring this proportion down to 57%. Figures for the past 20 years show that the decline is faster on the island than in the region. By applying this rule, we can estimate that the Francophones of the island, currently at 48.2%, will not be in 40 years, with the PLQ/QS scenarios, more than 40.7%.

However, these simulations are outrageously optimistic, because they are based, as we now know, on immigration figures well below reality. On December 31 of last year, 177,000 temporary immigrants, not counted in the thresholds, were among us. And between the 1er January and the 1er June of the current year, 100,000 people settled in Quebec, double the threshold forecast for the entire year.

François Legault may brandish the proportion of French speakers among the permanent economic immigrants he selects and reject out of hand the impact of the others, affirming that « they are temporary », the fact is that they entered Quebec for the past three years, massively in Montreal, at least 120,000 people who do not speak French and that it has offered nothing, absolutely nothing, to stem the constantly renewed and rapidly increasing tide of temporary workers.

Denial, a choice

Faced with this reality, denial cannot be a mistake. It is a choice. All the party leaders have been able to read the Statistics Canada data and the reports by Pierre Fortin and Marc Termote that Quebec has lost control of its immigration. In a moment of frankness, François Legault even indicated: “At 50,000, there is a decline. So, if we make the same recipe, we will have the same cake. »

How do these parties justify maintaining or accelerating the race of the French-speaking car towards the wall? By culpably ignoring the phenomenon of temporaries and using for the rest arguments that they cannot seriously believe, or at least that they should know are extremely risky.

The first is the promise of regionalization. Future immigrants — in the case of QS, they would lead to a 10% increase in the Quebec population in 10 years — would for the first time in our history be massively established in the regions. Have you heard the CAQ announce that it wants to “make Quebec City the second center of attraction for immigration”?

What did the Department of Immigration’s strategic plan say in 2001, 21 years ago? I quote: “Make the Capitale-Nationale region the second center of attraction for immigrants”. Certainly, additional incentives are offered, but after 50 years of failure of regionalization, how can we seriously trust it, when the future of the language is at stake?

Then there is the mirage of francization. The Auditor General tells us that it is a failure. The enrollment rate is too low. The retention rate is too low. The success rate is too low. Liberals and solidarity claim: we just have to increase the budgets! It’s been tried, see. Between 2013 and 2021, those budgets jumped 250%, according to the Immigration Department’s annual appropriations books.

There is only one reliable indicator of the impact of this increase: the census. Despite this injection of funds: 1. the proportion of Quebec residents who claim to speak French has fallen by 0.8 points, a first in 30 years; 2. the proportion of residents of the island of Montreal who speak only English has increased from 10% in 2016 to 12% in 2021, according to the calculations of researcher and essayist Frédéric Lacroix; 3. for the first time since the 1970s, the proportion of allophones who adopt French at home has dropped; and 4. the assimilation of Francophones to English now exceeds all assimilations to French.

The dynamic of decline is simple. A very common anecdote among our fellow English citizens illustrates this well. An English customer speaks to a merchant in French. After a few sentences, the two realize that they are Anglo, laugh and switch to English. Normal. The more French regresses, the more this behavior becomes generalized. Here is what Marc Termote writes in his spring report: « In the Montreal region, we observe and will continue to observe a growing gap between French which is less and less used ‘at home’ and French which remains more or less in the majority in public space. Can we conceive of a society permanently subjected to such quasi-schizophrenic behavior? How will immigrants (and English speakers) react when they realize that French is in the minority, which is about to happen on the island of Montreal (and will be in one or two generations throughout the region metropolitan) […] ? »

They will react by switching to another common language, that of mass culture, money and the continent, English. How can you blame them? Since Quebecers will have decided, at the polls in 2022, to drop their language, why should non-French speakers lead a fight that is not theirs?

In France, there is the criminal offense of “non-assistance to person in danger”, punishable by five years of imprisonment. In Quebec, caquists, liberals, solidarity and conservatives practice non-assistance with language in danger. They should suffer a heavy penalty at the polls on October 3. Otherwise, the French will be punished.

jflisee@ledevoir.com; blog: jflisee.org

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