Forty per cent of Quebec companies want their employees to have English language skills, reported a new Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) poll on Tuesday.
The 75-page report reveals that the percentage even jumps to 62.9 per cent of businesses in Montreal want their employees to have English skills and 32.2 per cent of businesses outside of Montreal want the same. The average for Quebec as a whole stands at 39.8 per cent.
However, article 46 of the Charter of the French language (Law 101) stipulates that it is prohibited for an employer to require a person to know any language other than the official language unless it’s necessary to accomplish the tasks of the job.
In Montreal, results from the poll show that 50 per cent of the city’s boroughs and municipalities required or wanted English only or French and English language skills when hiring people for jobs in their areas in 2018.
Outside of Montreal that percentage goes down to 19 per cent for English only or French and English language skills.
In Montreal, 17.2 per cent of municipalities or boroughs rejected applications because of a lack of French skills and 20 per cent because of a lack of English skills.
The data which was unveiled this week was deemed “very worrying” by the minister responsible for the Charter of the French language, Simon Jolin-Barrette.
The minister says he considers it problematic that a worker cannot work in French only here in Quebec, where French is the only official language.
“It’s a bit discouraging to see this portrait,” said Denis Bolduc, secretary general of the FTQ, which represents more than 600,000 workers in Quebec.
Bolduc attributes the situation to the inaction of governments over the years.
“There has been a lot of laxity from previous governments. This is the result of several years of politics where we have turned our heads and closed our eyes,” he said.
Parti Québécois interim leader Pascal Bérubé also expressed his worry about the situation.
“We will have to intervene on several fronts. Law 101 must be amended. French is threatened in Montreal and in certain suburbs. We are witnessing a normalization of the demand for English,” Bérubé said.
He criticized the CAQ government for claiming to defend French, without doing anything concrete, for example allowing companies with 50 employees or less to not have to abide by Bill 101.
Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) president Geoffrey Chambers, however, told Global News he believes the government is trying to stir up a language conflict for their legislative agenda. “Characterizing this as creeping English is an invention, it’s mischievous,” he said.
French Quebec Movement president Maxime Laporte said the province needs a new Bill 101.
“The situation of French is getting worse and worse. We are reaching a critical point,” he said. “We are witnessing a normalization of institutional bilingualism.”
Laporte said he is calling for a review of article 46 of Bill 101, which deals with an employer’s right to require a mastery of a language other than French.