PARIS – Defending the French language does not mean refusing to speak other languages, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday, alongside Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
The two leaders met for the first time since Macron’s election in May 2017, at the Elysee Palace, the president’s official residence in Paris.
Macron, who has been criticized in the past for speaking English in public, was asked by a reporter whether he was doing enough to defend the status of the French language around the world.
The president said he was inspired by what he called the “North American example.”
“I never hesitate to express myself at times in French or in the language of the host country or equally in English while on the international scene or in front of business groups because I think that reinforces the francophonie,” he said.
Macron added he wants to show that French is not an isolated language, but an integral part of multilingualism.
Couillard said most Quebecers agreed with Macron’s statement. They want to defend French, he said, but Quebecers also want to learn other languages.
The premier announced Macron would address the provincial legislature in Quebec City in June when the French leader in the province for the G7 meeting.
Couillard also discussed the controversy surrounding the office of Michaelle Jean, the former Governor General of Canada who is head of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the body that represents the world’s French-speaking countries.
Jean has lead the organization since 2015.
The Quebecor media company reported last year Jean spent $500,000 in public funds to renovate the official residence she rents in Paris, and that she spent $20,000 to buy a piano.
Couillard said he was proud to see a Quebecer at the head of the francophone organization and that he wanted her mandate to be successful, but he called for better accounting and transparency in the use of public money.
The premier visited Jean at her office Monday and met with personnel.
Journalists covering Couillard’s trip asked for a meeting with Jean, but a spokesperson said she was busy.
One of the main themes of Couillard’s trip is aerospace and on Tuesday, Couillard is scheduled to tour the Airbus factory in Toulouse and meet with management.
Last October, the European aircraft manufacturer acquired a majority stake in the C Series, the flagship aircraft of Bombardier.