PQ study finds use of French waning in Montreal

According to a study the Parti Québécois published in April, the use of the English language could surpass French in Montreal as early as 2016. The PQ concludes that by 2016, the percentage of Montrealers speaking French as a first language will drop from 79 per cent in 2006 to 43 per cent.

According to a study the Parti Québécois published in April, the use of the English language could surpass French in Montreal as early as 2016. The PQ concludes that by 2016, the percentage of Montrealers speaking French as a first language will drop from 79 per cent in 2006 to 43 per cent.

“Statistics prove that in a bilingual situation, the preferred language will be English,” said PQ MNA Pierre Curzi who co-authored the study. “On behalf of that reality, we have to debate if we want to preserve the French side of Montreal and if so, how can we do that?’’

Formerly a major actor in Quebec’s French cinema, Curzi notably worked with Oscar-winning director Denys Arcand on films like Les invasions barbares and Le déclin de l’empire américain. Curzi began his career as a politician with the Parti Québécois in 2007.

“The Montreal [linguistic portrait] we published doesn’t open up the war between Francophones and Anglophones,’’ said Curzi, who is also the PQ’s language critic. “This is not our purpose and of course, we want Concordia students to tell their opinion on the issue. I would be ready to discuss [it] with them.’’

In the all-French document Le grand Montréal s’anglicise, Curzi paints a drastic portrait of what Montreal could become in future years, writing that by 2016, English-speakers could be in a majority position. This could be attributed to a number of reasons, he said, such as the intensification of immigrant populations who choose English universities and CEGEPs instead of French schools.

On that issue, Curzi said that Concordia and McGill should be more involved within Montreal’s French population.

“[McGill and Concordia] should provide more French services,” he said. “And [McGill and Concordia] should become social actors to improve anglophones’ interest in the Québecois culture. In a province in which the only official language remains French it should be part of their institutional mission.

“There is also the fact that French-speakers move to suburban cities and leave Montreal,” Curzi continued. “This is a reality to be slow down. It is also proven that when a person chooses to study in English for its CEGEP or university degree, there is 50 per cent of chance he won’t work in French after. But 90 per cent of people who choose French schools will continue using the language.’’

When asked if he thought the rising number of anglophones learning to speak French is compensating for the decline of Francophone Montrealers, Curzi said French is still in a dangerous position.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 1, published June 11, 2010.

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