Yesterday, politicians in Quebec gathered in Montreal to announce the opening of three foreign company offices in the city.
But it was a speech by Montreal mayor Valérie Plante that dominated media coverage of the event.
TL;DR Mayor Plante has apologized after giving a speech yesterday entirely in English.
Going off script, the mayor delivered all of her remarks in English. She claims to have been excited by the energy and spirit of cooperation that dominated the event. Other figures gave speeches in both English and French.
But criticism of the mayor's decision was swift and widespread. At a moment when conservative governments across Canada have threatened the security of the French language, the mayor's speech provoked particular fury.
Journal de Montréal writer Francis Halin made made a similar point: "at a time when a challenge to the French language shakes Ontario, the mayor of the largest Francophone city in North America [...] did not think it appropriate to speak French," he wrote.
As we reported yesterday, other Quebec residents took to Twitter to voice their disapproval:
J ai honte de Valérie Plante https://t.co/xfFmjUwC95— aline roy (@alineroy2) December 4, 2018
"I'm ashamed of Valérie Plante," wrote one user.
Today, in the face of such a huge backlash, the mayor has admitted that it was a mistake to deliver her speech entirely in English, according to La Presse.
The mayor also issued a formal statement on Twitter. "My speech should have been primarily in French," she wrote.
Mea culpa. Je suis sortie de mon texte ce matin en m’adressant à un parterre d’investisseurs étrangers en intelligence artificielle. Ma communication aurait dû être principalement en français. #polmtl (1/2)— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) December 4, 2018
Je suis fière d’être la mairesse de la métropole francophone d’Amérique du Nord et je demeure engagée à faire la promotion de notre langue commune et officielle sur toutes les tribunes. #polmtl (2/2)— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) December 4, 2018
She also committed "to the promotion of the common and official language [of Quebec]."
Some Montrealers, however, seemed unimpressed.
Inexcusable. Vous êtes une honte pour les Montréalais/Québécois. Vous participez consciemment au déclin du français. Comment prétendre l'oubli de parler français alors que Montréal est une ville française & nous savons tous que l'avenir de notre langue est en jeu. Menteuse.— JPQuébec (@JPQuebec) December 5, 2018
Montreal, in particular, has long struggled to balance the importance of preserving the French language with its multiculturalism and need to communicate with its large Anglophone population.
This latest incident is sure to further discussions not only about the place of the French language in Canada, but also the place of English in Montreal.