MONTREAL—Looking back over the past 31 years, Quebec’s language watchdog has revealed that the overall use of French in the workplace has increased, but strong bilingualism has the OQLF’s president calling for vigilance.

“We see the numbers, and from the numbers we have we see that we have a challenge to ensure, because 63 per cent of people in Quebec say they use English,” said Louise Marchand, president of the Office Quebecoise de la Langue Francaise. “We must remain vigilant.”

According to the studies, the use of French in the province’s offices increased from 83 per cent to 91 per cent from 1971 to 1989—each of those offices used French more than 50 per cent of the time.

“Overall, French is more widespread in the workplace today than it was in 1971,” said Marchand.

The Montreal number was smaller, with only 85 per cent working in French in 1989.

However, after 1989 the use of French was thrown into reverse and declined to 89 per cent across Quebec by 2010. With the decline in French, Marchand identified a rise in bilingual workplaces.

The most disturbing number for Marchand was the rise in offices that spoke in both English and French—nearly 63 per cent used both languages.

Interesting, companies with fewer than 50 employees use more French than larger businesses that are required to implement a Francization program.

Language hardliner Mario Beaulieu of Le Mouvement Quebec francais said enforcing the law is not enough.

“With respect for the Anglophone minority in mind,” he said, “Bill 101 needs to be strengthened if French is to be the common language at work.”

Beaulieu says there should be English services and institutions, but not all services need to be bilingual.

PQ to tighten Bill 101 legislation

Tuesday’s report was released only weeks before the Parti Quebecois government looks to introduce a new Bill 101 in the province’s legislature, to tighten regulations protecting French in the province.

Diane De Courcy, minister responsible for the Charter of the French Language, will be introducing its proposals for a new charter before next Friday, the last day of the fall session.

Thegovernment has already floated some ideas, including expanding Bill 101 to daycares and CEGEPs. That plan was quickly shot down by the opposition, which holds majority standing in government.

The PQ said the report could help justify tougher laws.

“We'll simply let the report speak for itself. We can talk to the authors and look at the report,” said Minister Responsible for Montreal, Jean-Francois Lisee. “That's our stance for today -- look at the facts, look at the numbers and then wait for Ms. Courcy to table her proposal to deal with this in a very pragmatic way.”

Liberal leader Jean-Marc Fournier said he doesn’t want to see the erosion of rights.

“Well, if that's a bill to erase rights from citizens, you know my position, you know the position of our party -- we are for the respect of rights,” he said.