Quebec's premier-designate Pauline Marois says one of her priorities is to halt a perceived decline of French in the Outaouais, but the most recent numbers from west Quebec suggest more people in the region — not fewer — are speaking French.

Marois has pointed to the retreat of the French language, as she describes it, as one of the reasons she wants to make Quebec's language law, Bill 101, even stricter.

The stronger bill would include three new stipulations:

  • All businesses that employ 11 or more employees use French in all staff communications.
  • Private institutions that allow francophone or allophone students to transition to English public schools would close.
  • The language bill would stretch to CEGEPs, trade schools and adult education centres.

The language numbers for 2011 will not be known until October. But records from the Institut de la Statistique of the Quebec goverment, which include statistics up to the last census in 2006, show French has actually become more prevalent in the region between 1986 to 2006.

French rising as language at home

The census measures language affiliation through simple questions such as, "What is your mother tongue?" and, "What language do you speak at home?"

In 1986, 76 per cent of Outaouais residents said they spoke only French at home. By the mid-2000s, that number was up to 83 per cent.

During the same period, the use of English at home dropped from more than 16 per cent to less than 15 per cent. Bilingualism is also on the rise.

Small business owners like Richard Mainville, who owns the Orient Express take-out in Hull, is not a fan of the possibility of stricter language laws. He said Marois would be better off focusing on things that improve the economy.

"They're the past, we need new ideas for the future. To put this province back on the map so we can do our share for the country," said Mainville.