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There is no language crisis in Quebec, economists say


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pc10_0411_bill101c-e1529883725834.jpg THE MONTREAL GAZETTE/Phil Carpenter

Ignore the alarmists, there is no language crisis in Quebec, economists say

Graeme HamiltonGraeme Hamilton
June 24, 2018 7:48 PM EDT
MONTREAL — Quebec’s June 24 Fête nationale is a celebration rooted in an impulse for preservation. Behind the parades, concerts and bonfires across the province this weekend lays a reminder of the ever-present need to defend the French language.
It is a message regularly reinforced by the media and politicians, from reports highlighting a decline in the proportion of Quebecers with French as their mother tongue to dismay over Montreal merchants embracing English with a ‘Bonjour-Hi’ greeting.
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In fact, it is hard to imagine a Quebec without a serious language issue. But according to the author of a new economic study for a Montreal think tank, that Quebec already exists.

Analyzing the supply and demand of English and French in Quebec over the 40 years since the language law known as Bill 101 was introduced, the study by Université de Montréal economics professor François Vaillancourt finds the law and other measures have done their job.

Knowledge of French has increased despite a drop in the share of French mother-tongue speakers. Francophone employers dominate the Quebec economy. And speaking only French is no longer a brake on earning power.

“Quebec language policy will always face challenges, since Quebec is surrounded by anglophones,” the study for the CIRANO research group concludes. “But considering the picture presented in this paper, we must set aside language policies that regard English as the language of conquest and not the language of international openness.”
He is an economist, but Vaillancourt is intimately familiar with Quebec language law. In 1977 he was recruited to work as a consultant to Parti Québécois cultural development minister Camille Laurin in the drafting of Bill 101.

Forty years later, he decided it was time to assess the impact, and his paper published last month is the result.

que_bill_101_anniversary_20170825.jpg?qu Quebec Premier Rene Levesque tries to hush supporters at a Parti Quebecois rally in Montreal, Nov.15, 1976, following his party’s victory in the provincial election. The PQ victory led to the landmark Charter of the French Language, more commonly known as Bill 101, which became law on Aug. 26, 1977. THE CANADIAN PRESS

“Essentially, we are told two things,” Vaillancourt says in an interview. “There are fewer Quebecers with French as a mother tongue, and at the same time Montreal is becoming more English. That is true, but it is not the whole story. There are other things going on.”

For one thing, the percentage of the Quebec population able to speak French rose to 94.5 per cent in 2016 from 88.5 per cent in 1971, before Bill 101 was adopted. Because of the province’s selection criteria, more than half of immigrants to Quebec today already speak French, and Bill 101’s requirement that their children attend French school has ensured future generations become fluent.

To an economist’s eye, this is an increase in the supply of French speakers, and it has coincided with an increased demand, as francophones took control of the Quebec economy and workplaces became more French.

Quebec language policy will always face challenges, since Quebec is surrounded by anglophones

 
 

Vaillancourt has found that French is more common in the workplace when the ownership is francophone, and he notes that between 1961 and 2003 — the last year for which data is available — francophone-owned companies went from employing 47 per cent of workers to 67 per cent.

Using census data, Vaillancourt documents a steady increase in the income of unilingual francophones in comparison to their unilingual anglophone counterparts. For example, in 1970, a unilingual anglophone man earned on average 10 per cent more than a unilingual francophone man with comparable education. By 2010, the advantage had flipped to the unilingual francophone, who was earning 10 per cent more than a unilingual anglophone — and eight per cent more than a bilingual anglophone.

Economists Vincent Geloso and Alex Arsenault Morin have also written a paperchallenging the commonly held view that French is in decline in Quebec.

The reality, they say, is that language-usage patterns have become much more complex as a result of immigration and “inter-linguistic marriages.” Their 2016 paper says that while census data shows a slight decline between 2001 and 2011 in the proportion of people speaking French at home, it is compensated for by an increase in those using French at work.

rally_20130630.jpg?quality=60&strip=all Norma O’Donnell holds up a sign calling for anglo rights in Quebec as she attends an “I am Canadian Rally” in Montreal, Sunday, June 30, 2013. Graham Hughes/THE MONTREAL GAZETTE

“In other words, 88 per cent of the population of Quebec have French as their most often used language at home, at work or in both spaces. The apparent decline of French in Quebec is then a consequence of a rise in multilingualism,” they write.

Statisticians struggle to keep up with evolving behavior that muddies once reliable measures such as mother tongue and language spoken at home.

“Before, if you were a French speaker, you married a French speaker, you worked in a French job and that was it,” Geloso, an assistant professor at Bates College in Maine, says in an interview.

“Now you may be a French speaker who marries an English person and works a French job. … It’s not because somebody uses English 30 per cent of his life instead of zero per cent that French is in a crisis, especially if some English speakers in the process start speaking more French on a daily basis.”

Vaillancourt says language has practically become a matter of faith in Quebec, with people worshipping at the altar of Bill 101 instead of the Catholic Church. But he thinks it is time to challenge the language-law orthodoxy.

I don't think having a common language necessarily implies depriving ourselves of understanding another language

 

He notes that the majority of people affected by Bill 101’s schooling restrictions are francophones, because they are prevented from sending their children to English school.

“That’s fine, but I don’t think having a common language necessarily implies depriving ourselves of understanding another language,” he says.

In 2011, just 38 per cent of Quebec francophones were bilingual, according to census results, compared with 61 per cent of Quebec anglophones. Vaillancourt proposes a mandatory one-year English immersion program for all students in French schools. He acknowledges there could be an increased “risk of assimilation” but says Quebecers’ economic potential would grow.

In parallel, with a view to ensuring all employees are able to provide service in French, he recommends that anglophones should be obliged to have part of their schooling in French, either in an immersion program or in French schools.

Quebec should draw inspiration from the Netherlands, where 90 per cent of the population speaks English, 71 per cent speaks German, and no one worries about he disappearance of the Dutch language, Vaillancourt says.

And if ever a widespread knowledge of English in Quebec led to the disappearance of francophone Quebec hundreds of years from now, “it would have to be understood that this is the result of the choice of francophones themselves and not a forced assimilation,” he concludes.

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Ce qu'il est important de comprendre c'est que la loi 101 a non seulement sauvé la langue française au Québec mais elle a également sauvé le Canada.

C'est que les Québécois francophones se sentent moins menacés et davantage respectés aujourd'hui qu'en 1976. Ce qui a eu pour effet de réduire la vigueur du mouvement indépendantiste.

Si la loi 101 n'avait jamais été passée le Québec serait aujourd'hui indépendant. It's as simple as that.

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Le Québec est maintenant rendu à maturité en terme de débat linguistique. Les petites querelles de l'époque n'ont plus le même effet, les tensions sont au minimum et les débats sont beaucoup plus harmonieux. J'aime notre situation actuelle ou l'équilibre entre la protection du français et l'ouverture à l'anglais est à un niveau quasi parfait. Difficile de trouver une meilleure cohabitation. 

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il y a 18 minutes, mark_ac a dit :

and at what cost? Montreal/Quebec has lost its power, capital, head offices, countless of young and bright people due to the inflexibility of 101. The economic toll of this, in terms of dollars that could have been re-invested in hospitals, infrastructure, eduction etc.. you will never know how much this has cost us.

We are more at the mercy of the Canadian federation than ever before, as Montreal has become a regional centre. We've lost the made in Montreals (BMO, Royal, Sun Life, Molson, Bell, Labatt etc.) Bill 101 continues to hurt Montreal's attraction power to get talent from the outside.

Don't make this personal. I am all for a Bill 101 that is more flexible and allows Montreal to be a global magnet for talent and a place of doing business.  You will never truly appreciate how much the inflexibility of the current laws has costed the welfare of the Quebec social systems in terms of billions of dollars of lost opportunity. This is a difficult concept to grasp, truly get it.

That price had to be paid.  How much do you think the Revolitiony War cost the Americans?  Would they really be better off as a part of the British Empire (Trump notwithstanding...)?

Canada wants an English speaking city as its flagship city (or at least, not a French speaking city).  They could have live with Montreal, bur never with Montréal.  Now let Montréal be a city of the world rather then the flagship city of the Rest of Canada.  The worst is over.

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Le 2018-06-24 à 22:39, mark_ac a dit :

Montreal/Quebec has lost its power, capital, head offices, countless of young and bright people due to the inflexibility of 101.

Sans la loi 101 le Québec se serait séparé de toute façon et aurait perdu encore davantage de capitaux, sièges sociaux et habitants de langue anglaise, et même de langue française. Cela aurait donc eu le même effet, juste 100 fois pire. Make that 101 fois pire.

Je le répète pour tous ceux qui n'auraient pas bien compris: la loi 101 a sauvé le Canada. À quel prix? Cela n'a pas de prix si on veut rester à l'intérieur du Canada, ou c'est le prix à payer si on veut se séparer.

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7 hours ago, Normand Hamel said:

Ce qu'il est important de comprendre c'est que la loi 101 a non seulement sauvé la langue française au Québec mais elle a également sauvé le Canada.

C'est que les Québécois francophones se sentent moins menacés et davantage respectés aujourd'hui qu'en 1976. Ce qui a eu pour effet de réduire la vigueur du mouvement indépendantiste.

Si la loi 101 n'avait jamais été passée le Québec serait aujourd'hui indépendant. It's as simple as that.

Totally agree with Normand. Bill 101 was the glue that kept the country together.

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Il y a 10 heures, mark_ac a dit :

Bilingualism hurts nobody. Should be promoted and celebrated. This is our unique selling feature - something that our neighbors can't compete with.

What weird logic. English is the common staple for most economic centers. One of our selling feature (not our "only one") is our francophonie, not our bilingualism. Again, knowledge of the English language is a given. What needs to be promoted is the knowledge of French, because English will always have an undeniable attraction. Even with the "evil" Charte de la langue française, knowledge of English has grown with non-anglophones in Quebec. Promoting bilingualism is giving both languages equal treatment, which will directly favor English due to its attraction, usefulness and popularity. 

If you are really for bilingualism, you cannot deny the necessity of bill 101.

Edited by fmfranck
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Il y a 11 heures, mark_ac a dit :

Bilingualism hurts nobody. Should be promoted and celebrated. This is our unique selling feature - something that our neighbors can't compete with.

Sounds like you have evolved in your opinion too.  Bravo !

Il y a 11 heures, mark_ac a dit :

and at what cost? Montreal/Quebec has lost its power, capital, head offices, countless of young and bright people due to the inflexibility of 101. The economic toll of this, in terms of dollars that could have been re-invested in hospitals, infrastructure, eduction etc.. you will never know how much this has cost us.

We are more at the mercy of the Canadian federation than ever before, as Montreal has become a regional centre. We've lost the made in Montreals (BMO, Royal, Sun Life, Molson, Bell, Labatt etc.) Bill 101 continues to hurt Montreal's attraction power to get talent from the outside.

Don't make this personal. I am all for a Bill 101 that is more flexible and allows Montreal to be a global magnet for talent and a place of doing business.  You will never truly appreciate how much the inflexibility of the current laws has costed the welfare of the Quebec social systems in terms of billions of dollars of lost opportunity. This is a difficult concept to grasp, truly get it.

Back to your old position. Living in the past...Typically heard with baby boomers. 

Can't you at least admit that Québec is a much better position socially and linguistically today than before 101 ?  If the answer is yes, then just accept it and move on.  We will build on that. You can't turn back the clock. And would you even want to go back that road again?

 

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Il y a 11 heures, mark_ac a dit :

and at what cost? Montreal/Quebec has lost its power, capital, head offices, countless of young and bright people due to the inflexibility of 101. The economic toll of this, in terms of dollars that could have been re-invested in hospitals, infrastructure, eduction etc.. you will never know how much this has cost us.

We are more at the mercy of the Canadian federation than ever before, as Montreal has become a regional centre. We've lost the made in Montreals (BMO, Royal, Sun Life, Molson, Bell, Labatt etc.) Bill 101 continues to hurt Montreal's attraction power to get talent from the outside.

Don't make this personal. I am all for a Bill 101 that is more flexible and allows Montreal to be a global magnet for talent and a place of doing business.  You will never truly appreciate how much the inflexibility of the current laws has costed the welfare of the Quebec social systems in terms of billions of dollars of lost opportunity. This is a difficult concept to grasp, truly get it.

I wonder if the opening of the seaway is not the one who is responsible for the decline of Montreal rather than Bill 101...

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Il y a 12 heures, monctezuma a dit :

I wonder if the opening of the seaway is not the one who is responsible for the decline of Montreal rather than Bill 101...

Les causes sont bien plus profondes que ça et remontent aux années 1920. Jane Jacobs a d'ailleurs très bien cerné et expliqué le phénomène dès 1980:

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Montreal used to be the chief metropolis, the national economic center of all of Canada. It is and older city than Toronto, and until only a few years ago, it was larger. At the beginning of this century Toronto was only two-thirds the size of Montreal, and Montreal was much the more important center of finance, publishing, wholesaling, retailing, manufacturing, entertainment -everything that goes into making a city economy.

The first small and tentative shifts of finance from Montreal to Toronto began in the 1920s when Montreal banks, enamored of the blue-chip investments of the time, overlooked the financing of new mining opportunities which were then opening up in Ontario. That neglect created an opportunity for Toronto banks. The stock exchange which was set up in Toronto for trading mining shares merged with the old generalized Toronto stock exchange in 1934, and by the 1940s the volume of stocks traded in Toronto had come to exceed the volume traded in Montreal.

During the great growth surge of Montreal, from 1941 to 1971, Toronto grew at a rate that was even faster. In the first of those decades, when Montreal was growing by about 20 per cent, Toronto was growing by a rate closer to 25 percent. In the next decade, when Montreal was adding a bit over 35 percent to its population, Toronto was adding about 45 percent. And from 1961 to 1971, while Montreal was growing by less than 20 percent, Toronto was growing by 30 percent. The result was that Toronto finally overtook Montreal in the late 1970s.

But even these measurements do not fully suggest what was happening economically. As an economic unit or economic force, Toronto has really been larger than Montreal for many years. This is because Toronto forms the center of a collection of satellite cities and towns, in addition to its suburbs. Those satellites contain a great range of economic activities, from steel mills to art galleries. Like many of the world's large metropolises, Toronto had been spilling out enterprises into its nearby region, causing many old and formerly small towns and little cities to grow because of the increase in jobs. In addition to that, many branch plants and other enterprises that needed a metropolitan market and a reservoir of metropolitan skills and other producers to draw upon have established themselves in Toronto's orbit, but in places where costs are lower or space more easily available.

The English call a constellation of cities and towns with this kind of integration a " conurbation ", a term now widely adopted. Toronto's conurbation, curving around the western end of Lake Ontario, has been nicknamed the Golden Horseshoe. Hamilton, which is the horseshoe, is larger than Calgary, a major metropolis of western Canada. Georgetown, north of Toronto, qualifies as only a small southern Ontario town, one of many in the conurbation. In New Brunswick it would be a major economic settlement.

Montreal's economic growth, on the other hand, was not enough to create a conurbation. It was contained withing the city and its suburbs. That is why it is deceptive to compare population sizes of the two cities and jump to the conclusion that not until the 1970s had they become more or less equal in economic terms. Toronto supplanted Montreal as Canada's chief economic center considerably before that, probably before 1960. Whenever it happened, it was another of those things that most of us never realized had happened until much later.

Because Toronto was growing more rapidly than Montreal in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and because so many of its institutions and enterprises now served the entire country, Toronto drew people not only from many other countries but from across Canada as well. The first two weeks I lived in Toronto back in the late 1960s, it seemed to me that almost everyone I encountered was a migrant from Winnipeg or New Brunswick. Had Montreal remained Canada's pre-eminent metropolis and national center, many of these Canadians would have been migrating to Montreal instead. In that case, not only would Montreal be even larger than it is today, but -and this is important- it would have remained an English Canadian metropolis. Instead it had become more and more distinctively Quebecois.

In sum, then, these two things were occurring at once: on the one hand, Montreal was growing rapidly enough and enormously enough in the decades 1941-1971 to shake up much of rural Quebec and to transform Quebec's culture too. On the other hand, Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe were growing even more rapidly. Montreal, in spite of its growth, was losing its character as the economic center of an English speaking Canada and was simultaneously taking on its character as a regional, French-speaking metropolis.

These events, I think, are at the core of Quebec's charged and changing relationship with the rest of Canada. Things can never go back to way they were when an English-speaking Montreal was the chief economic center of all of Canada and when life elsewhere in the province of Quebec was isolated and traditional. These changes are not merely in people's heads. They cannot be reasoned away or even voted away.

A culture can persist without its own metropolitan capital, as Quebec's did for so long. It can persist as a museum piece. But is cannot flower and thrive without a metropolis. French Quebec has its own cultural metropolis now. But to continue thriving as a culture capital, Montreal must also thrive economically. There's the rub. As a regional Canadian city, which is what Montreal has now become, its economic future is unpromising.

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