Montreal

François Legault sounds alarm over future of French language in Quebec

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault is doubling down on his stance that Quebec’s current immigration policies would result in the erosion of the French language in the province, in a matter of a few generations.

'It's a matter of time before the majority don't speak French,' warns CAQ leader

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault repeated his comments Friday that the French language is at risk if the province maintains current levels of immigration. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault is doubling down on his stance that Quebec's current immigration policies would result in the erosion of the French language in the province.

"If you accept more than half of new immigrants are not speaking French, it's a matter of time before the majority don't speak French," Legault said Friday, pointing to a statistic he has repeatedly cited on the campaign trail — that 59 per cent of last year's new arrivals did not speak French.

A day earlier, Legault made headlines with the assertion that, if more isn't done, "our grandchildren will not speak French."

Figures indicate that such a threat is far from imminent.

The large majority of immigrants do, in fact, end up learning the language. According to a 2017 Statistics Canada report, 80.5 per cent of immigrants reported being able to conduct a conversation in French.

Legault's comments were seized on by his chief rival, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard.

Couillard said cutting the number of immigrants annually by more than 20 per cent — which the CAQ has proposed to do — would be detrimental to the economy, given the province's current labour shortage and aging population.

"It's an economic issue, and it's essential for Quebec's future. If we miss that boat, we'll be penalized for years and years and years," he said.

Like Legault, Couillard said more needs to be done to integrate immigrants and ensure they learn French but said the solution isn't to block them from coming altogether. 

Montreal mayor cool to Legault's proposal

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante had a cordial meeting with the CAQ leader Friday, but she is cool on François Legault's plan to slash the number of new immigrants welcomed to Quebec annually. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
 

Legault's comments also put him at odds with Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante. While the two were cordial during a meeting Friday, Plante was cool to the CAQ leader's immigration proposals. She said immigrants are a big part of the city.

"Seeing people in Montreal, seeing citizens that just got here," she said, "I know how much they're thriving. I know how much [they're] working hard to make a new home, to make a new life."

Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée, who has also stressed the importance of preserving the French language, said Friday the party would likely limit the number of immigrants to between 35,000 and 40,000.

The party had previously said it would leave the figure up to the auditor general to determine.


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