A Striking Banner In Montreal Raised The Alarm About The State Of French In The City
Comments on Reddit capture the wide diversity of stances on the language debate.
A provocative message greeted drivers entering Montreal one morning in early December. A handful of people took to the corner of avenue de Lorimier and rue Ontario, at the base of the Jacques Cartier Bridge, with a large banner that read, "French is dead. Welcome to MTL." The display was an apparent warning about the state of French on Montreal Island, where, census data shows, the proportion of people for whom French is the first official language (of Canada's two) spoken fell to 58.4% between 2016 and 2021.
If the demonstrators' mission was to stir conversation, they succeeded. A Reddit post featuring a photo of their banner has received almost a thousand upvotes and over 300 comments at the time of writing. Unsurprisingly, the comments section is a bilingual soup of provocative statements, quips and largely unproductive debate.
"I was not surprised to see such heated discussions," u/Bestialman, who posted the pic, told MTL Blog. "I, too, am concerned about the anglicization of Montreal and many other users seemed to share this feeling. But the action also shocked many users, and many people were arguing, wrongly in my opinion, that Montreal is not anglicizing."
The Reddit post comments capture the wide diversity of stances on the language debate, from anxiety about the future of the French language in North America to calls for more constructive discourse to dismissive trolling.
Statistics Canada data shows that while the number of French speakers in Quebec has increased, the "relative proportion of individuals who speak predominantly French at home has been decreasing since 2001."
That line from the 2021 census summary has been particularly contentious, spurring debate about how the Quebec government should be assessing the state of French and whether the language spoken at home, as opposed to in public or at work, was an appropriate metric.
Then-Minister of the French Language Simon Jolin-Barrette called the data evidence of the "disturbing decline" of French.
And Quebec Premier François Legault caused an uproar this spring when he raised concern about the number of people speaking French in their private lives.