The observation does not lie. Whatever the indicator – mother tongue, spoken at home, at work, etc. –, the French are losing their feathers. Yellow lights had been on for a long time, however.
The problem is that immediately after the last referendum, the governments chose to do nothing. In its first mandate, in an attempt to curb the increasingly worrying decline of French, the CAQ adopted Bill 96.
It was to reinforce this poor Bill 101 weakened many times by the courts and the apathy of Quebec governments. Most experts, however, have warned the CAQ government.
His law 96 would be a step in the right direction, but it would be insufficient. Re-elected, the Prime Minister, François Legault, says he wants to act more strongly, but still refuses to extend Bill 101 to CEGEPs.
He says he prefers 100% Francophone economic immigration. (I will come back to this in another column.)
Jean-François Roberge, Minister of the French Language, also calls for a great “national awakening”. And what does it eat in winter?
According to him, “every Quebecer must ask himself: am I choosing a book in French? Am I listening to a program in French? […] In my workplace, do I express myself in French whenever I can? »
Thereupon, good luck… Because the reality, it, does not play in the same film. Why ?
Because young Quebecers, of all origins, grew up in post-referendum Quebec. In doing so, they were politicized and socialized in an abyssal silence on the national question and linguistic issues.
In those same years, they also saw the few public figures who dared to sound the alarm about the already begun decline of French, being treated by the media and governments as radicals and ayatollahs of the language.
In short, there is no point in blaming the new generations for their obvious indifference to the same issues since it was the previous generations who, after 1995, had abandoned the boat before their eyes.
These previous generations, including mine, came from the Quiet Revolution. We had therefore been hyper-aware of national issues. It was our natural ecosystem.
A whole different universe
What Minister Roberge is asking for, we did spontaneously. In the 60s and 70s, we demanded to be served in French. Thousands of people demonstrated in his defence. We consumed Quebec culture to the max while discovering those from elsewhere.
Above all, we understood the difference between desirable individual bilingualism and deleterious institutional bilingualism for the survival of French.
Socialized in the post-referendum vacuum and bathed in a virtual world where English strongly dominates, the younger generations are quite simply living in a new universe.
The minister may sound the “great alarm clock” to them, but they are elsewhere. Even all our struggles of the 60s and 70s had failed to counter the immense power of attraction of English. It took Bill 101 from the Lévesque government.
If a civil society “awakening” could be enough to do the job, it would have been known for a long time. The moral of this story ?
Whether citizens mobilize or not, the state cannot shirk its responsibilities. The ultimate guardian of the survival of the French language in Quebec is him.
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French language: if the “national awakening” worked, we would know…
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