The president of the Société nationale du Québec à Laval (SNQL), Jean Desautels didn’t fall off his chair when he learned of the significant decline of French in Laval since 2016.
“It’s consistent with what we’ve been saying for the past few years: Laval is becoming more and more anglicized and the French language is playing an increasingly secondary role,” he said in a phone call, when asked to react to the Linguistic portrait of Laval drawing from the 2021 Census data released this week by Statistics Canada.
“We’ll have to take very strong action if we really want to save the French language in Laval,” said the regional leader of the Quebec organization dedicated to promoting and defending the French language.
Desautels sees an urgent need to act: “If we do nothing, we will simply disappear. We can say that in probably five or 10 years, Laval will have become a bilingual city and in 20 years, a unilingual English city. It’s absolutely obvious from the current trends.”
First and foremost, he hopes that the Laval French Language Committee, which the city intends to create, will quickly get under way.
Last June, under the impetus of Parti Laval’s interim leader, Claude Larochelle, the city council unanimously adopted a resolution to form a committee of experts whose mandate will include developing “a Municipal action plan for the enhancement of the French language by the end of 2023” .
“This committee should be created in the next few months; in two years, it will be too late,” said the ardent defender of the French language.
In order to slow down the anglicization, which he says is constantly gaining ground in the city north of Montreal, Desautels is appealing to the Municipal administration to communicate with all citizens in French and in French only.
Unlike municipalities with bilingual status, Laval remains a French-speaking city and is not required by law to address its citizens in English, regardless of whether they communicate with the Laval administration in English, the SNQL president said.
“Everything, everything must be done in French only,” he insisted, referring to signage and official digital, oral and written communications. “The more bilingual documents we offer, the more we encourage people who don’t speak French to continue not speaking French.”
This includes notices issued by emergency and public health services.
The onus would then be on all Residents to learn French or to have documents sent by the city translated.
“I feel that our French is seriously threatened and personally, as Mr. Legault said recently, I would not hesitate to speak of an increasingly accelerated Louisianization of Quebec and Laval,” concluded Desautels.
– This report by Courrier Laval / The Local Journalism Initiative was first published in French on Aug. 7, 2022