For a few years, I have read, I hear and I feel that a decline of the French language is inevitable within the current Canadian institutions: many immigrants are moving to Quebec, but where they are really moving to is Canada.
English suits them better and, with French classes being now cut, all they do is mangle the language of Molière when ... they can't help using it. Many manage to avoid French school over generations (see private schools, English-speaking cégep) and continue to grow up to become Canadians first (Anglos, if you want): they gorge themselves on anglophone media, music and attitudes.
What enables me to make such statements? Simply put, my experience. I was born in Bas-de-Rivière, lived there 16 years, then I went to Quebec to study at the Cégep and the University for seven years. Until then, I had lived all my life in French; even foreign students and teachers had to speak French to become integrated, or else they would end up alone.
Yet at the Laval University Hospital (CHUL), I had my first experience of working in English, in the lab of a researcher who had recently arrived and spoke only English. Since I can speak English, I accepted this situation. However he soon had to speak French for survival, and his three daughters are now little Québécoises like any others: demographic pressure had been at work.
Things changed when I arrived in Montreal: first I worked for a Lachine company, then with the McGill university. Needless to say, virtually everything that happened there was conducted in English, even when no more than one English-speaker was present. Why? Because, at every given moment, everyone on the staff included a number of immigrants for which English was easier...
However, I started to ask myself serious questions when I had to see a doctor at the Jewish Hospital. On several instances, the staff could not utter a word of French, or even give me forms and regulations in French, except sometimes in bad French!
After six years of this, I began inverting word order («bleue porte», for example) or answering a spontaneous “What?” when asked a question. I reacted in a Draconian way to this change and I tried to reject English. Since then, I have practically stopped listening to English-speaking music or movies and I am less keen to learn new English words. Survival was somehow at stake.
Finally, we moved (with the family now) to Gatineau and have been there two years. Here, I sense a demographic crush: unilingual English-speakers are served in English by mechanics and grocers, without an "au revoir", why, the checkout clerk even treats them to a heartfelt “Have a good day!” and a broad smile.
Also, when riding the bus to Ottawa General Hospital where I work, I sometimes hear French-speaking people meet their anglophone friends (always in Gatineau) and greet them in English. As soon as the river is crossed, another country begins for me: 99% English-speaking commercials, unilingual drivers, businesses serving their customers in English only. What can French-Ontarians do about it? Some whinge a little against it but a majority of them folds, and… does so with pleasure!
More often than not, I can make out three French words in between two English sentences, or else someone speaks English and receives an answer in French. One might call it symbiosis, but English-language dominance is felt all the same.
click here to read the rest of the letter in French
Le Devoir, a Quebec media outlet, published this letter from a francophone reader, on January 2008: