Errors travel faster and more widely than corrections, so let's start by stating verified fact: The French language in Quebec is not in decline.
Yes, Statistics Canada bungled its roll-out of language data from the 2016 census this month when it incorrectly said that the number of Quebeckers whose mother tongue is English had jumped by 10.6 per cent since 2011.
Had it been true, there would have been reason to worry. But StatsCan corrected its computer error, and now the worst that can be said is that French in Quebec is holding steady.
The number of Quebeckers who speak French at home – widely regarded by demographers as the key metric – rose by 0.1 per cent to 87.1 per cent in the five years ending in 2016.
Yes, the percentage of mother-tongue French speakers fell slightly relative to 2011 (by 0.6 per cent). But that wasn't because of an increase in English – the corrected data indicate a contraction of the anglo minority.
The so-called "de souche" population is growing in absolute terms, but just not quickly enough to outpace a falling birth rate and increased immigration.
The Institut de statistique du Québec reports the province accepted more immigrants from 2011-2016 than 2006-2010, and that a higher percentage of recent arrivals – only a quarter of whom are francophone – is staying in the province.
None of the preceding is meant to dismiss efforts to preserve French in Quebec. But the discussion of how best to do it should happen without needless alarmism.
History suggests that's too much to ask, though. In three weeks, the Parti Québécois will unofficially kick off the 2018 electoral season with a policy convention that will shape its platform under leader Jean-François Lisée.
The posturing has already begun, with one hardliner telling Radio-Canada this week that Mr. Lisée will be judged on his willingness to toughen language laws.
Never let facts get in the way of a good story.