Rising bilingualism in Quebec welcomed by some, but feared by nationalists
New census numbers show 45 per cent of people in Quebec speak both official languages
Many English-speaking Quebecers aren't surprised at the rise in bilingualism in the province, a trend revealed by new census numbers released Wednesday.
Nancy Girgis says it's just the reality.
"I think it's being part of Quebec culture, part of Montreal culture to know both languages, but especially to be fluent in French and to impart that on our children," said Girgis.
Girgis married a francophone and often chats with him in French. That is the language they mainly speak at home as they raise their three-year-old son.
"We do live in a world that's mostly English-speaking," said Girgis. "But French is part of our culture, part of our history. So we thought it was important to teach him both."
May Yamada speaks Japanese but sees herself as an anglophone. She knows she doesn't have to speak French to get around in Montreal, but she chooses to — especially when she goes to the market.
"I always speak French just to practise, just to keep it up," said Yamada.
The latest numbers show bilingualism in Canada is at an all-time high at 18 per cent, with Quebec driving the trend.
The 2016 Statistics Canada census numbers show 45 per cent of people in Quebec speak both official languages, up more than two percentage points from the last census.
The numbers reveal that more anglophones are speaking French at home.
Bilingualism has grown 'astronomically'
Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says Quebec often drives the rise in bilingualism across the country.
But this time, he says, this surge is different.
"It's grown absolutely astronomically in many ways," said Jedwab.
"The way the trend is moving, it's safe to predict that in the space of 10 years, the majority of Quebec's population will probably be bilingual."
'Disaster' for francophones
Quebec nationalist activists, meanwhile, say the census numbers are a disaster for Quebec francophones.
The latest census numbers show the number of native French speakers in Quebec has gone down slightly, from 79.7 per cent to 78.4 per cent.
Native English speakers edged up a tiny bit, from 9 to 9.6 per cent, likely due to immigration.
Éric Bouchard of the Mouvement Québec français said the province needs to "end institutional bilingualism'' in order to help preserve the French language.
"When you phone a public department and you are told, 'For English press 9', that means there is no need for anyone who lives here to learn French,'' he said.
Bouchard and representatives from sovereignist group Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste spoke Wednesday at Camille-Laurin Park, a place dedicated to the man described as the "Father of Bill 101."
Bouchard says the census numbers show Quebec's language laws aren't working.
He said the decline of the French language needs to be taken as seriously as climate change.
"If nothing is done, French will be over,'' he said. "The francophone elites need to take their head out of the sand.''
With files from The Canadian Press