In recent years, even though I knew reassuring speeches about the state of the French language in Quebec were misleading, I liked to hope that they were correct.
I liked to delude myself.
I was 20 years old in 1988. I belong to this generation X, several members of which were durably marked by the marches and demonstrations whose slogan was “Hands off Bill 101”.
I kept a certain idea of Quebec for which French should be the object of care so that it becomes a language of convergence, a melting pot. The foundation of a unique nation on this continent animated by a “hard desire to last”, to borrow the alliteration of Paul Éluard.
However, these ideas have lead in the wing. Looks like they weren’t passed on. Were they too closely linked to these other projects of sovereignty, of independence, which failed? Has the emergence of new means of communication, of cultural dissemination sounded the death knell?
It remains that these days, the confessions are eloquent and multiply.
In Quebec, since the tabling of recent studies, it is admitted in all parties that French is bad. It is fast becoming a commonplace. There is no longer really Jean-Marc Fournier, this liberal who in 2016 embodied the blissful optimism about French.
Even in Ottawa — I emphasized this recently — the Trudeau government, in its Speech from the Throne, for one of the first times affirmed that French needs special protection and promotion.
That seems an understatement: TVA Nouvelles revealed on Wednesday for example that “ten of the nineteen districts of the metropolis, as well as the City-Center, do not have a certificate of conformity with the Charter of the French language”.
The minister responsible for language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, deplored this, declaring that Montreal should nevertheless be “the flagship of the French language” in Quebec. That is well said.
But as the new PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon pointed out yesterday: within the CAQ, Mr. Jolin-Barrette seems to be a “lone warrior” who “goes out alone, always on the same themes”, while his government “does exactly the opposite”.
To regain a taste for action, to straighten things out, to solve problems, an exercise in lucidity is essential.
For many, it could well be the reading of “Why Law 101 is a Failure” (Boréal) by independent researcher Frédéric Lacroix.
A true path of Lacroix, this work, which, with force of statistics, documented historical returns, convincingly relativizes the success of this law recognized for having overhauled Quebec.
A law opposed, abused by Ottawa in the name of the symmetry of linguistic minorities. Law which is no longer the shadow of what it was when it was adopted in 1977.
But the fault also lies with the Quebec elites, who seem to have turned their backs on the fight for a French Quebec by always demanding more English. And by practicing unbridled Frenglish. “French is slowly being reduced to the rank of second language in Quebec”, even concludes Lacroix.