Montreal’s mayor apologized Wednesday for speaking almost entirely in English as she delivered a speech highlighting international foreign investment in Montreal.
Valerie Plante admitted she had “clearly” made a mistake by not using more French as she addressed the crowd at an artificial intelligence gathering Tuesday.
She told a council meeting Wednesday morning that she delivers about a dozen speeches a week, all mainly in French, and is proud to do so.
“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.
Plante drew the ire of language critics for a speech that contained no French except for a brief opening greeting and a thank you at the end.
She even earned a rebuke from the provincial culture minister, who said Quebec politicians have a duty to speak its official language.
“All Quebec’s elected officials have the responsibility to promote the French language,” said Nathalie Roy, who is also the minister responsible for the French language. “It’s our official language. It’s our shared language. We have to celebrate it.”
Roy added that she believed the message “had been heard” in Montreal.
Plante said the speech, welcoming the arrival of three U.K.-based AI companies to Montreal, was supposed to have been delivered mainly in French, but she departed from her notes at the last minute.
She had been chatting with the British investors just before heading to the lectern, and “the button stayed stuck,” she said.
“It was not my intention. I actually didn’t follow the plan,” Plante told reporters.
“I always speak in French and have a section in English depending on the content.”
Plante said she was surprised by the controversy over what she described as a “stupid mistake” but understands the concern over use of French.
“I was angry with myself, in the end,” she said.