Three CAQ ministers took the pulse of high school students on Monday on the future of French and Quebec culture. Their observation: young people consume mainly English-language digital platforms, unsurprisingly, but they ask to see more French-language content from here.
The Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, was visiting a school east of Trois-Rivières, in Mauricie, accompanied by his colleagues from Culture, Mathieu Lacombe, and Education, Bernard Drainville.
Their visit to the Académie les Estacades was part of the work of the action group for the future of the French language set up by the Legault government last January. The initiative aims to determine the main directions of an action plan to curb the decline of French in Quebec.
When asked who subscribes to streaming services Netflix and Disney, a majority of hands went up in the auditorium where more than a hundred young people were gathered to chat with the three chosen ones. Conversely, the Radio-Canada Tou.tv platform received few hands raised, some even seemed to be unaware of the existence of this web TV.
But students who spoke expressed their interest in American platforms offering more Quebec productions, a way that they believe could lead them to consume a little more Quebec culture.
“There’s like a way out maybe. We don’t tell them to drop Netflix because we know that’s not going to happen. But if we are able to bring more Quebec productions to Netflix, we can see that young people would like that, ”commented in a press briefing Mr. Drainville following the meeting.
“There was no one in the room who said, ‘French isn’t important, it’s too demanding, lower your expectations’. Basically, there is a kind of thirst for culture and French, then they proposed how, ”added Mr. Roberge at his side.
“They were really in the solution and not in denial. So that’s very encouraging,” he added.
Minister Lacombe also announced last month his intention to legislate to force web giants to promote Quebec content.
The three ministers said they were reassured to hear the young people show an attachment to French. Some have suggested favoring Francophone immigration to maintain the survival of the language of Molière in Quebec.
Using Quebec books, songs and films to teach French at school also received positive support, which pleased Minister Drainville. Several young people, however, insisted that the proposed works be contemporary and join their generation.
“They want to consume Quebec culture that interests them. I’m sensitive to that,” Mr. Lacombe noted. We must ensure that their first contact with Quebec cinematography “is a success if we want to retain them for the future,” he said.
A large number of participants also indicated that they would use the digital cultural passport for young people announced last week in the 2023-2024 budget. An amount of $4.2 million over two years has been set aside to deploy this pass, which should promote access to Quebec cultural goods and services at an advantageous cost.
The meeting of the CAQ trio with the students of Trois-Rivières came about two weeks after the broadcast of a government advertisement aimed at encouraging Quebecers to speak good French.
The advertisement – in which a narrator describes a peregrine falcon in Franglais, with all sorts of expressions like “sick”, “insane” and “sketch” – drew various criticisms, particularly from young people who felt singled out.
The visit of the ministers to the Académie les Estacades was planned well before the broadcast of this advertising campaign, said Mr. Roberge. It is not in the plans to criss-cross schools in different regions as part of the action group. Having enjoyed their experience on Monday, the three elected officials would possibly like to repeat the exercise, suggested Mr. Roberge.
He indicated that the reflection of the action group will continue with the holding of an online consultation which will be announced on Tuesday.