For the first time, the Sud-Ouest borough of Montreal is set to host a weekend-long Festival du solstice d'été — Summer Solstice Festival — to celebrate the arrival of summer. The centrepiece of the festival, according to its website, will be the Fête nationale of Quebec, la Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
But though Fête nationale festivities will anchor the event, news of the new festival provoked intense backlash from people across the province. The "Summer Solstice Festival," critics say, serves to erase the Quebec national day by omitting it from its name.
The name choice, says Sud-Ouest borough mayor Benoit Dorais, reflects an aim to celebrate the Fête national in "an inclusive and unifying setting." "We invite our fellow citizens and Montrealers of all origins to come and celebrate with us," he continued in a press release.
But many people took to social media to express their disappointment.
"I hosted the National Day in Montreal for 5 years. With a lot of pride. I am pained / perplexed that in the Sud-Ouest borough, it is now called Festival du Solstice d'été. Because it lasts 3 days? Call it National Holiday Festival."
"By what right can a handful of employees of the Sud-Ouest borough of MTL hide and erase the National Day of Quebec in favor of the neutral formulation of Summer Solstice Festival ???? This neutrality is not neutral, it is tamping the national reference!!!"
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Now, both Quebec premier François Legault and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante are calling on organizers to change the festival name to reflect la Saint-Jean-Baptiste. The mayor shared her order to alter the festival name on Twitter.
"On June 23-24, we proudly celebrate Quebec National Day. I will require the organizers of the Summer Solstice to redo their posters to showcase the National Day. If there is a moment to display, to affirm and not to fade, it is then."
Dorait has yet to publicly respond. Last night, however, he defended the Summer Solstice Festival name.
"We will celebrate with pride the National Day on June 23 & 24. We decided to extend the festivities and create a larger festival. This event does not replace the national holiday. On the contrary, it will be put forward during activities."
There is so far no timeline for the festival rebranding effort. Stay tuned for more information. For the complete festival program, which will shut down rue Notre-Dame O., read our article here.