Valérian Mazataud Archives Le Devoir Former Minister Louise Harel, who chairs the City of Montreal Committee on the French Language, believes that the promotion of the French language is not sufficiently reflected in the policies and action plans of the City.
The City of Montreal Committee on the French Language, chaired by former Minister Louise Harel, proposes that the City add the slogan “Francophone Metropolis of the Americas” to its official logo. In a report submitted to the City, he also recommends that a place “of great visibility” be named in honor of Camille Laurin, father of the Charter of the French language.
Created in February 2022, the committee's mandate is to advise and support the City in the implementation of its Action Plan for the Promotion of the French Language 2021-2024. This committee has ten members. In addition to Louise Harel, there are notably former minister Louise Beaudoin, Stanley Péan, writer and animator, Jean-Philippe Alepins, member of the management of the Society for Technological Arts (SAT), and trade unionist Arthur Sandborn.
In a first report that will be tabled Monday at City Council, the committee makes 12 recommendations to the City to promote the French language.
The first recommendation suggests following in the footsteps of other Quebec municipalities and adopting the slogan “Francophone Metropolis of the Americas”, which would be added to the City's logo in order to highlight its distinctive character and “affirm its Francophone character. “. “It's a signature, a positioning to say 'this is what we are': the French-speaking metropolis of the Americas,” said Ms. Harel in a telephone interview.
The former elected official indicates that the committee was inspired by the formula “Quebec, the accent of America” adopted by the City of Quebec in 2014. Other Quebec cities have adopted such statements, including Granby, which has opted for “Radiant City” in 2008.
The committee also believes that, at present, the promotion of the French language is not sufficiently reflected in the City's policies and action plans. He therefore recommends that the City adopt a “transversal approach” to promote the French language in all administrative bodies, in the city center and in the boroughs. “This notion of transversality is very important,” says Louise Harel. Often, people will associate the French language with culture, which is partly the case, but it must also be associated with all the other dimensions of the City. »
In 2021, the administration of Valérie Plante had also created the position of commissioner for the French language in order to coordinate the application of the action plan of the City in this matter. She had appointed Roseline Fréchette to this position, but she left her post last year to return to the Ministry of Immigration, Francisation and Integration, where she previously worked. “She had a proposal she couldn't refuse,” said Louise Harel, who praises the “tremendous work” done by Ms. Fréchette as city commissioner. His position has still not been filled.
The committee also insists on the importance of granting the necessary support to the person who will be appointed to this position, because the task will be important and he will have to ensure, in particular, that the application complies with the City of the state language policy that Quebec must adopt. Remember that this policy establishes French as the exclusive language of government communication.
Speech in English criticized
Is Montreal a good student when it comes to valuing the French language? Louise Harel is careful not to pass judgment. “I will when I leave the committee,” she said. The former politician points out, however, that Montreal has taken several significant steps with the publication of its action plan and the creation of the post of commissioner. “There is a passionate person who is responsible for the French language file: Dominique Ollivier. This is very important, because she is still president of the executive committee, ”she recalls.
The City's example in favor of the French language is essential, but Louise Harel believes that the issue must be approached in a “positive” way. “It should not be seen as an obligation that comes to us from Quebec. We must do this while also wanting to contribute to making French truly loved and appreciated by the population. »
In 2018, Mayor Valérie Plante came under heavy criticism when she gave a speech almost entirely in English during an announcement about investments by British companies. She later admitted having made a mistake.
In this regard, Louise Harel points out that no provision of Bill 101 or Bill 96 concerns elected officials, either in Quebec City or Montreal.
Honor Camille Laurin
The committee judges that the City should recognize the legacy of Camille Laurin by choosing a place of “high visibility” to honor the memory of the man, who died in 1999, who had adopted the Charter of the French language in 1977 A street in Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles has been named after him since 2002, and in 2021 the Plante administration finally agreed to have a pedestrian walkway named in his honor in Outremont. “We owe that to Camille Laurin,” said Louise Harel. We need to do more. We must do better. »
The committee she chairs also recommends that the City add, in its toponymy criteria, the recognition of personalities who have contributed to the protection of the French language.
Among the other recommendations, the committee mentions the need for the City to better inform businesses about the rules relating to signage determined by the Charter of the French language. This is to prevent them from being slapped on the knuckles by the Office de la langue française after they have obtained their permit from the City.
The Plante administration has indicated that she will take the time to analyze the committee's proposals and that she intends to act on them “soon”. “Montreal is the French-speaking metropolis of North America, it is precious and we are determined to protect this status and to promote the French language,” said the president of the executive committee, Dominique Ollivier, in an email. “This is an important step that has been taken by the advisory committee chaired by Ms. Harel. […] It will allow us to push further the preservation of this collective heritage, our language, which defines us, enriches us and which participates in forging our identity. »