The Co-Existence of French and English in Québec

by Laura-Camille on February 12, 2017 - 10:05pm

Patrice Bergeron wrote an article for La Presse, a francophone journal, entitled ‘’Le Québec peut aussi parler au monde en Anglais, dit Lisée’’*. This article was published on February 1, 2017, and the following is a summary of Bergeron’s text (

Following the terrorist attack in a mosque in Quebec City, the Prime Minister Phillipe Couillard made a declaration about the event in both French and English. This declaration was broadcasted on multiple television stations, including CNN, an American network. Although the declaration was of same length in both languages, the Prime Minister received some criticism from French-Canadians who argued that Québec’s only official language was French and that the Prime Minister should have consequently spoken only in French.

Against all odds, Jean-François Lisée, leader of the Parti Québécois, took Couillard’s defense. The Parti Québécois having the reputation of being sovereignist, most would not have predicted such a stance on the issue. Lisée argued that although French should be prioritized in Quebec, we must be realistic. He states: ‘’If we want to be on CNN and that we want everyone to understand what we are saying, and that we speak English well, why not?’’ (my translation). Yet, he still believes that when the Prime Minister travels to other countries, he should speak French as it is the language that represents our province. Furthermore, in international meetings or conferences, there are translators present.

Since La Presse is a French journal, it would be predictable for it to have a bias when it comes to the clash between the French and English languages in Quebec. This is the reason why Bergeron’s article was pleasantly surprising; It was as neutral as it could possibly be. Being a French-Canadian, I value my culture and believe in the importance of protecting the French language. However, I also believe that both English and French can co-exist, and that this co-existence is in fact necessary. Certain sovereignists, which I have in my own fully French-Canadian family, still hold the discourse that the province of Québec could be well-off with the smallest presence of English possible. Today, the international relations depend on the English language and if we want to evolve, we must embrace the bilingual state of our province.

Recently, the Federal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced criticism for refusing to answer a question in English at an event in Sherbrooke, QC, and mostly French-speaking city. Upon reflection, he admitted that he should have answered partly in French, partly in English, as English-speaking Quebecers are an increasing population in the province. To read more on this story consult the following article by the National Observer, published on January 19, 2017:

The fact that both Phillipe Couillard and Jean-François Lisée defend and support the importance of English in Quebec suggests that the ever-lasting battle of French and English in Quebec may one day become less tense. If both English-speaking and French-speaking Quebecers respect one another’s culture, we may be able to co-exist peacefully.

*Translation: ‘’Quebec can also talk to people in English, says Lisée’’. (my translation)


I think you bring up a very good article and opinion about the ongoing problem we have in Quebec over language dominance, and what is politically correct as to what language should be used and at what time. I believe this problem should be something of the past. I feel as if sometimes some French-Canadians that are very 'old-school' in their thoughts and beliefs remind me a lot of our southern neighbors who support trump and do not want other cultures and languages to change their country. I also believe it is in our best interest, as a province, to support the beautiful diversity we have and not close our doors to the different languages and cultures that are a part of our province.

I found your topic really interesting, and I totally agree with you. I think that the problem of languages is extremely important, especially in a bilingual country like Canada. You mentioned a co-existence of French and English and I, also, believe that it is the best choice that can be offered. I think, is this case, using an utilitarianism point of view is the best way to solve the situation. As Lisée said, if we want people to understand what we say, we should use English, because in Canada, not everyone only speaks French. The most important is to make as many people happy as possible, by allowing them to understand what we say. The best way to be understood would be to use both French and English, this way, not only people in Quebec would be able to understand, but Anglophones as well. In order to respect the utilitarianism idea of making as many people happy, French and English must co-exist. Not to mention that languages are an intellect pleasure, therefore, according to utilitarians, it should be prioritized because it gives people a sense of accomplishment to be able to understand both languages. Not only will the co-existence of English and French make many people happy, but it will help people learn the two most important languages of the country.

The co-existence of French and English in Quebec has been an interesting phenomenon and a hotly debated subject throughout the province.
I agree that the conservation of the French language is important but the use of the English language should also not be neglected. The fact that both languages can be used and treated fairly in Quebec well has set a good example for other provinces to follow. This topic can be represented by utilitarianism, a philosophical approach that determines something ethical by measuring the greatest amount of happiness. According to utilitarian point of view, the co-existence of English and French is considered ethical since it satisfies the most of people by accepting both languages as official in the province of Quebec. The English community in Quebec accounts for not an insignificant part of the population and French community plays an even demographically greater role. Given the fact that English is an international language and French is widely used by francophone community, both languages has been given the equal status in the province of Quebec. Therefore, utilitarianism solves the problem by satisfying the majority of the people and making them happy.

I find your article very interesting and relevant. The issue between English and French in Quebec has always been present.

The fact that the Province of Quebec possesses two languages can only be an asset in my opinion. I do not believe that allowing the English language to prosper in Quebec would lead to the loss of the French language. This dilemma between the languages can be analyzed through a Utilitarian approach. Since Utilitarianism is a teleological way of thinking, it focuses on the outcome of an action. By allowing the presence of English and French in quebec, it would create a beneficial outcome. Therefore, creating the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Having a bilingual province with bilingual civilians can only create opportunities. This dilemma is an important ethical issue in Quebec, and there is no right answer that can be drawn. Your article brought up convincing points that both languages should be represented in Quebec.

I agree wholeheartedly with your statement. It is unfair to the rest of the English-speaking society that might want to understand the details of the tragedy. Although it is imperative that the French culture remains relevant in Quebec as well as the language to be preserved, there are instances where the inclusion of both languages is necessary. The province has had countless issues with language, primarily concerning the French language being represented throughout the region. Canada, being a bilingual country, should be enough for Quebec to be bilingual as well. This applies to Anglophones just as much as the French speakers in Quebec, as both languages are highly important in the context of Quebec.

The approach that you took for your article was leaning on the principle of cultural relativism. There's an awful lot of prejudice between both cultures, as the rivalry between the French and the English has existed for a long time in history. As you identified yourself as a French Canadian, you also opened your perspective to that of another's culture by accepting the fact that both languages should coexist. It is for that, we must work together to eliminate the conflict between both cultures. It would work in everyone's advantage, from a utilitarian perspective, as bilingualism would be convenient for each party.

About the author

Small town girl (livin' in a lonely world) passionate about music, peace, human rights and universal love. People that surround me sometimes say that I should not talk about certain "controversial" issues, but I am stubborn and persuasive.