A 20-year-old French police officer Years of experience, who came here hoping to be able to work in French in Quebec, can’t get over the fact that the doors are being closed because he doesn’t speak enough English.
“Anyone who doesn’t speak English will be excluded from conversations. They’ll get banned from a job,” confides Olivier (real name) to the journal, who prefers to remain anonymous given the sensitive nature of his work.
“Having been trusted in one country for 20 years, I don’t see why we can’t do that here,” the Montreal native continues through adoption.
A broken dream
Like other Frenchmen, Olivier was conquered by the “Quebec Dream”. He left everything to come and live with us, but when he arrived he was disillusioned.
“I chose Quebec because it’s a French-speaking province and I’m not the only one who is like that,” he breathes.
When Olivier is asked why he doesn’t settle far away from the big city, he replies that his wife has a job in the metropolis.
“I don’t want my children to be afraid of English. On the contrary, I encourage them to learn it. It is important. It’s a shame that I might have to flee because of English,” he says.
Fired for being monolingual
After waiting more than three years for permanent residence, Olivier expected things to settle down, but he encountered a new locked door: the requirement to speak English at work.
“I got fired because I wasn’t fully bilingual,” sighs the man who managed to find a good job at a financial institution while beginning the police officer process there.
More English at work
Today, at the end of his resources, Olivier finds it hard to believe that Quebec can’t offer him at least one role in the fraud detection business.
“It’s gotten worse and worse in recent years. When I arrived we still found places where it was okay not to speak English well, we were tolerant, but today there are English tests,” he laments.
Although French remains the most used working language in Quebec, its weight has dwindled since 2016, standing at 79.7% in 2021, according to the Quebec Office of the French Language (OQLF).
In comparison, English jumped to 13.9% in 2021 across the territory over the same period.
“The decline in the proportion of those who use French most often at work is a trend that has already been observed in several censuses. In 2001, for example, this figure was 82%,” notes the OQLF.
Much worse on the island of Montreal
On the island of Montreal, the phenomenon is even more pronounced. While French has stagnated at 56.7% as the most widely used language, English has risen from 27.1% in 2016 to 31.3% in 2021, a 4.2% increase in just five years.
“We are told: we need French workers. But once here everything gets complicated,” concludes Olivier, who no longer rules out a return to France.
According to the Office québécois de la langue française, the proportion of people using French at work in the Montreal crown is 81.1% or 24.4% higher than on the island.
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