French Study Reviewer Quits Over ‘Out Of Control’ OQLF

French study reviewer quits over 'out of control' OQLF

The Gazette
Published: Friday, March 07

One of the key academics involved in the controversial study of the state of French in Quebec said yesterday he is quitting because Quebec's language watchdog is out of control.

Simon Langlois, a Universit Laval sociologist who headed the committee of academics doing peer reviews of the 18 studies that went into the massive report, said he was protesting against the heavy-handed way the studies were handled.

“It isn't a decision taken lightly,” Langlois said in a telephone interview yesterday. The Office qubcois de la langue franaise is out of control, suffering from “a crisis of management,” he said, and the way the report landed – huge volumes of data but no conclusions – was “a disaster.”

“There have to be conclusions,” Langlois said. When France Boucher, the former Liberal political aide who now heads the office, made the report public, she refused to say what her conclusions were.

The studies were available as long as 18 months ago and some were even posted on the Office website, Langlois noted. Others, such as an evaluation by Universit de Montral demographer Marc Termote that was ready last August, were withheld, Langlois added.

Termote concluded if present trends persist, by 2021 a minority of Montrealers would speak French at home. Mario Dumont, whose Action dmocratique du Qubec wants to limit the number of immigrants Quebec accepts, argued last fall during hearings on whether to increase the quota that the province can't integrate more newcomers. Dumont wants the immigration hearings reopened in the light of Termote's findings.

The opposition Parti Qubcois concluded yesterday the studies show French is in trouble in the province, that there is a danger of “anglicization” of Montreal and that the government has to act to protect French.

PQ language critic Pierre Curzi denounced the “paranoia” of the Office for hiding the studies, then dumping them without explanation.

Langlois said he considered resigning in December when he and the other academics on the committee had to take an oath swearing they would not divulge the contents of the final report. But he stayed on to ensure the report, reviewing the state of French in the province over the last five years, was released.

Langlois said there are positive results, pointing out 90 per cent of people working in big companies in Quebec, such as Wal-Mart and Bell Helicopter, are working in French, albeit with some English as well because of their contacts beyond the province. Also on the bright side, non-francophones are watching more French movies and listening to Quebec musical groups.

But Langlois is concerned not enough is being done to integrate immigrants into French Quebec, noting a high proportion of immigrants still gravitate to the English community.

He also thinks the government should be “more innovative” in encouraging businesses with less than 50 employees to francisize their workplace.

The PQ wants to amend Bill 101 to achieve this. Language Minister Christine St-Pierre said Wednesday she will not touch Bill 101, Quebec's Charter of the French Language.

At present, businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the francization requirements of larger employers.