The mayor of Montreal mayor apologized for speaking almost exclusively in English while she was delivering a speech recently about foreign investment. This is ridiculous.
According to CTV, “Valerie Plante admitted she made a mistake by not using more French as she addressed the crowd at an artificial intelligence gathering Tuesday.”
The problem is, there was no mistake. The speech was made to address three British artificial intelligence companies upon their arrival in Montreal. What language should you use to address English companies? English seems like a fairly wise choice.
Besides, many would agree that English is the language of commerce throughout the world. It makes perfect sense for the mayor of a city that wants to be a major player in the world to communicate to the business world in the language they are most likely to understand.
But of course, Mayor Plante capitulated to the identitarian French language lobby and apologized anyways: “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,” Plante said. She further pledged to deliver many more speeches in French to atone for her sin.
I would argue that one major reason Montreal is not on the list of influential business cities throughout the world is precisely because of this kind of anti-English identity politics. According to Business Insider, the best business cities are ranked based on “business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement.”
In terms of cultural experience and political engagement, petty scandals and forced apologies like these ensure that Montreal will continue to get a big, fat, FAIL on the world stage.
If Montreal wants to join the ranks of the great hubs of commerce such as London, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, and increasingly Toronto then it will have to grow up and get over these petty language disputes.