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Montreal Mayor Under Fire for Speaking English, Not Being Sorry Enough

Montreal mayor Valérie Plante was forced to apologize on Tuesday after veering into the English language during a televised speech to welcome new business to the city.

The speech, which was addressed to three AI companies from the U.K. who had just expanded to Montreal, was originally written in French. But things quickly went out of control as Plante switched to English partway through, perhaps so the attendees of honour could understand, and never looked back.

She was quickly reviled by French language advocacy groups and Le Journal de Montréal, the largest French-language daily newspaper in North America. And Twitter, of course.

Plante responded with a series of tweets to apologize for her brazen affront to the French language. “Mea culpa. I improvised this morning while speaking to a group of foreign investors. My speech should have mainly been in French,” she tweeted. “I’m proud of being the mayor of the francophone metropolis of North America and I remain engaged in promoting our common and official language on all forums.”

Seems reasonable. But it wasn’t enough. The Mouvement Québec français, a group dedicated to making French the only common and official language in Quebec, urged the mayor to go further. Invoking “the spirit and the letter of Bill 101 in activities and communications by the mayor,” the Mouvement called on Plante to create a position within the executive committee to oversee the application of the French language charter and that the she reaffirm Montreal’s status as a French city.

Kind of reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where George demands excessive retribution for a vending machine malfunction – “All I want is my 75 cents back, an apology, and for him to be fired!”

Plante actually followed up with a deeper apology. “French is my native language, it’s the language of my heart, and it’s a great pride for me to use this language in the biggest francophone metropolis in North America,” she said at a council meeting yesterday. ”

No executive action was promised.

Christian Nathler

Christian Nathler is a contributing writer at Notable Life.