Bilingualism requirements for jobs in Quebec have, over the years, resulted in many immigrants being denied work. Diane de Courcy, Quebec immigration minister, says that it is a very serious problem that needs to be resolved.
Immigrants from Latin America and francophone countries have been denied jobs in Montreal, not because they lack French language skills but because they cannot speak English. Some have even been told they may have better luck looking outside of Montreal for employment, to places that are more French speaking.
In response to this, de Courcy said that the fact immigrants are being told to look elsewhere constitutes a major problem.
“I firmly believe that we can improve the regionalization of immigrants to contribute to economic development [ . . . ] but when someone suggests to (immigrants) that they leave Montreal to improve their career prospects because they are weak in English, I think we have a serious problem.”
In light of this, there have been requests from immigrants looking for work for the province to provide access to English speaking courses so that they can improve their chances of employment.
According to the MP for Crémazie and former head of the Commission scolaire de Montréal, bilingualism requirements for jobs are moving too far into the workplace and societal realm.
“Making bilingualism a requirement for hiring worries me. I have the impression we’ve gone a bit too far. When bilingualism moves into the workplace, for reasons that aren’t valid, we’re getting to the point where it’ll also move into society.”
At the core of the issue, for de Courcy and other Quebec officials, is the erosion of the French language in Quebec and how policies, such as the one in question, have contributed to this erosion.
According to de Courcy, the irony of the issue is that the decline in French speaking is due, in part, to these same immigrants from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
De Courcy is calling for governmental action to prevent a perceived decline of French speaking and culture in Montreal and says that this erosion will be further advanced if bilingualism becomes mandatory and the norm for employment.
The Office Québécois de la Langue Françoise, the department in charge of language issues and representation, is planning to release two studies before the end of 2012, which will outline the state of affairs with regards to the French language in the workplace.
A federal census, conducted late October, suggests that the proportion of households in Montreal that use the French language primarily has decreased from 56 per cent in 2001 to 54.2 per cent in 2006 and 53 per cent in 2011.
According to de Courcy, both studies to be released by the Office Québécois de la Langue Françoise and the federal census data show that French is indeed on decline, and will help the Parti Quebecois government decide on its next move.