Home News Québec’s Temporary Migrants Seen as Threat to French

Québec’s Temporary Migrants Seen as Threat to French

by Staff


Québec ‘s new commissioner of French says a boom in the number of temporary migrants is threatening the status of French, citing “significant repercussions.”

In the first report of his new position, Benoît Dubreuil addresses concerns over the rise in the use of English in the homes of immigrants to Canada. Critical of the report, the Québec Liberal Party are arguing that governments have no business in policing the languages that people speak at home. 

Dubreil also uses the report to comment on immigration statistics, particularly concerning those in transit or residing temporarily in Québec . 

The report, delivered to the National Assembly says “Recent polling data shows that in 2021, French was less in use than English among non-permanent residents,” – “We can consider that this strong use of English in the workplace among non-permanent residents (34.6%) is having significant repercussions on the situation of French in Québec .”

In May, Immigration Minister and member of the Coalition Avenir Québec party Christine Fréchette announced a potential plan to increase the total number of full-time immigrants to Québec to 60,000 a year by 2027. However, she made it clear that this plan would not include temporary workers and there would be no limit on their number.  

The Coalition Avenir Québec government has faced criticism from some opposing parties for not including temporary workers in its overall immigration plan – which at its core, is increasingly being tailored to protect the French language. 

The Parti Québécois, a long term advocate for sovereignty for the province of Québec , argues temporary migrants should be a factor in the debate because their total number undoubtedly has an impact on the status of French.

At a recent news conference, PQ Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon acknowledged Dubreuil in echoing his party’s message and accusing the government of focusing only on a business lobby for more temporary workers.

St-Pierre Plamondon explained to reporters “For us, it’s black and white,” “There needs to be a plan for temporary immigration.”

Dubreil examines uses of French across Québec in his report, referring back to a book he co-authored in 2011 ‘Le remède imaginaire: Pourquoi l’immigration ne sauvera pas le Québec‘ on the matter of French spoken in the home. The book argues that the language spoken at home by immigrants to Canada is a “relevant factor” for measuring the status of French. 

As of 2023, the number of native French-speakers in Québec has dropped from 77.1% to 74.8%, and the number of home French-speakers has declined from 79% to 77.5%. 

Liberal leader Marc Tanguay continues to bring opposing arguments to the forefront and repeated his belief for freedom of linguistic choice within their own homes. At a recent news conference he said “Trying to convince people that they are a menace because they are not speaking French at home should not be part of the debate,”.

As of June 1 2023 a new language law in Québec means all commercial contracts that “are not subject to the Charter” must be drawn up in French or provided simultaneously in French and another language. 

Elsewhere in Canada, measures are being implemented to bring French to the forefront. In Northern New Brunswick, the newly formed town of Belle-Baie is moving forward with plans to make French its sole official language. 

The town has however launched a review into its policy after complaints over French-only public notices and signage. 

The primarily francophone community was created on Jan 1st 2023, merging the towns of Beresford, Petit-Rocher, Nigadoo and Pointe-Verte as part of a reform in local governance. 

On June 1 2023, the town released a new draft of its language policy, declaring French as the official language of Belle-Baie, but notes it will make exceptions for public signage for health and safety issues.

Mayor Daniel Guitard has also announced that any resident will still be able to request all services in English.

We wanted to have the best possible policy showing that we’re a French community. But we wanted to be reasonable with our anglophone friends,” he said. “We’re not a bilingual community, we’re a French community. But we will provide services to citizens in English if they require it to be in English, in certain circumstances. “

The draft states that all oral and written communications from the municipality, including public notices, information documents, social media posts and the town’s website will be solely in French. The working language of government will be French. 

Under New Brunswick’s Official Languages Act, only a municipality with a linguistic minority population of 20% or over, is entitled to receive services in multiple languages. As Belle-Baie’s residents are 92% francophone, there is no obligation to provide bilingual services.

English-speaking residents of Belle-Baie have described concerns over culture and have described the original French signage as ‘unwelcoming.’

Ashley Aube, an anglophone resident of Beresford who speaks basic French said “It was always in French and English, even the town sign was in French and English,” – “I don’t know why when we became Belle-Baie that all of a sudden it had to become a French community.”.

Of newcomers to the town, she added “Just assuming that they would understand French, to me, is very unwelcoming,”. 

Guitard insists the town accepts Anglophones with “open arms” and will strive to offer quality services in English when requested. He attested that “vast majority” of citizens that were consulted, said it was important to protect the French nature of the community.


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