French gains ground among new­com­ers

Stats Can sur­vey dis­proves fears about im­mi­gra­tion

Montreal Gazette - - National Survey - mas­cot@ mon­tre­al­ MAR­IAN SCOTT

For the first time in mod­ern his­tory, the first of­fi­cial lan­guage of more than half of Que­bec im­mi­grants is French, says Statis­tics Canada’s 2011 National House­hold Sur­vey.

New data re­leased Wed­nes­day re­veal that 51.1 per cent of for­eign-born Que­be­cers have French as their first of­fi­cial lan­guage spo­ken com­pared with 48.4 per cent of Que­be­cers born out­side Canada in 2006.

Among re­cent im­mi­grants to Que­bec, French is even more dom­i­nant, with 58.8 per cent of all new­com­ers who ar­rived be­tween 2006 and 2011 hav­ing French as their first of­fi­cial lan­guage spo­ken.

An ad­di­tional 16.3 per cent of Que­bec im­mi­grants (all dates of ar­rival) have both French and English as first of­fi­cial lan­guage spo­ken, while 20.1 per cent have English and 4.8 per cent do not speak ei­ther of­fi­cial lan­guage.

The find­ings show that Que­bec’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, which favours ap­pli­cants from French-speak­ing coun­tries, has been suc­cess­ful at main­tain­ing the vi­brancy of the French fact de­spite in­creas­ing di­ver­sity, said Jean-Pierre Cor­beil, Statis­tics Canada’s chief lan­guage spe­cial­ist and as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of so­cial and abo­rig­i­nal statis­tics.

The new statis­tics dis­prove the con­tention that im­mi­gra­tion threat­ens to drown the French lan­guage, he said.

“There’s no doubt that there is an in­crease in im­mi­gra­tion,” Cor­beil said.

“This shows clearly that there is an in­creased level of knowl­edge of French and fewer re­cent im­mi­grants who speak only English, which is sig­nif­i­cant,” Cor­beil said.

The first of­fi­cial lan­guage spo­ken is the of­fi­cial lan­guage a per­son uses ha­bit­u­ally, even if that per­son also speaks a non-of­fi­cial lan­guage some of the time. For ex­am­ple, a per­son from Al­ge­ria might speak Ara­bic at home but use French at work and when shop­ping.

Daniel We­in­stock, a pro­fes­sor of law at McGill Uni- ver­sity, said the find­ings con­firm that no longer do most im­mi­grants au­to­mat­i­cally grav­i­tate to­ward the English­s­peak­ing com­mu­nity.

“That’s huge and it gives the lie to a lot of the scare­mon­ger­ing,” he said.

Alarm bells were sounded in Que­bec af­ter the 2006 cen­sus showed the pro­por­tion of mother-tongue fran­co­phones had dipped un­der 50 per cent on the is­land of Mon­treal be­cause of in­creased im­mi­gra­tion.

We­in­stock said the sur­vey re­sults show new­com­ers are not a threat to French be­cause they are in­creas­ingly speak­ing it rather than English. “I see it very anec­do­tally with my kids’ friends, who come from all over the world,” said We­in­stock, who re­counted that his daugh­ter re­cently went to see a pop­u­lar U.S. movie in the French dubbed ver­sion be­cause many of her friends speak French bet­ter than English.

“Things have changed,” he said.

“I still have the re­flexes of some­body who was born in 1963 in Que­bec, which is that when I see a young Por­tuguese or a young Ital­ian, I ex­pect the first of­fi­cial lan­guage that is go­ing to come out of their mouths is go­ing to be English, and that’s just not the case,” We­in­stock said.

Bill 101, which re­quires the chil­dren of im­mi­grants to at­tend French school, has suc­ceeded in mak­ing French the lan­guage used by many im­mi­grants, and es­pe­cially by their chil­dren, We­in­stock said.

“It’s good news and it’s what you would ex­pect from 35 years of op­er­a­tion of the ed­u­ca­tional pro­vi­sions of the lan­guage law,” he said.

We­in­stock added that beef- ing up Bill 101 — the pur­pose of the Parti Québé­cois govern­ment’s con­tro­ver­sial Bill 14 — is not the way to en­sure the fu­ture of French.

“I think we’ve reached the lim­its of co­er­cion. I think here has to be a way of mak­ing the use of French more at­trac­tive to peo­ple,” he said.

Win­ston Chan, an en­tre­pre­neur and chair­per­son of the Que­bec Al­liance of Young Cham­bers of Com­merce, said im­mi­grants from China are among the fastest-grow­ing groups in Que­bec.

“Most of them are young adults, 25 to 35. A lot of them are grad­u­ates of Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties,” Chan said.

They face daunt­ing bar­ri­ers to em­ploy­ment, he said. “We should put more money into pro­grams to help them in­te­grate. One of the is­sues is to help them have a first ex­pe­ri­ence of work in Que­bec by hav­ing a stage, or in­tern­ship,” he said.

There is high un­em­ploy­ment not only among new­com­ers but also among sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion im­mi­grants, par­tic­u­larly from vis­ual mi­nori­ties, Chan said.

“Racial dis­crim­i­na­tion still ex­ists. There’s also a lack of net­works. For some­body who grew up in Côte-des-Neiges or in a multi-eth­nic area, it’s not the same re­al­ity as if you grew up in West­mount or Outremont,” he said. “There are still many bar­ri­ers.”

The sur­vey shows that im­mi­grants rep­re­sented 12.6 per cent of Que­bec’s 7.9-mil­lion pop­u­la­tion in 2011.

That pro­por­tion is ris­ing, with nearly one in five im­mi­grants to Canada choos­ing to set­tle in Que­bec, said Tina Chui, chief of im­mi­gra­tion and ethno-cul­tural statis­tics at the national statis­tics agency. Que­bec has be­come more pop­u­lar with im­mi­grants since 2006, when 17.5 per cent of new­com­ers went to Que­bec. Nearly nine out of 10 of Que­bec’s 974,895 im­mi­grants live in Mon­treal, where 22.6 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is for­eign-born.

The sur­vey showed that out­ly­ing sub­urbs are also be­com­ing more di­verse, with im­mi­grants mak­ing up 12.2 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion of the “couronne” around Mon­treal in 2011, com­pared to 10.2 per cent in 2006.


Win­ston Chan, of the Que­bec Al­liance of Young Cham­bers of Com­merce, says new im­mi­grants still need job help.

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