“French is important and requires our constant support,” said Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM). This is why, since 2008, the CCMM has been working to promote French among Greater Montréal businesses. And while some have suggested a coercive approach, the CCMM has always believed that awareness raising and support for francization in small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) will lead to greater adoption and lasting change. The results of these efforts are starting to show.
An approach that reflects a business reality and delivers results
The CCMM has introduced a wide range of innovative initiatives and awareness-raising efforts. In addition to services to guide businesses in francization, it has developed a number of support programs. The Carrefour francisation has helped over 1,300 small businesses obtain their francization certificate or receive financial aid to work toward it. And its French in the workplace program has allowed more than 4,000 employees to be trained to date.
New language partnering program in Côte-des-Neiges
Building on the success of earlier francization initiatives, the CCMM is continuing its efforts. This year it is launching a language partnering pilot project between merchants in the Côte-des-Neiges borough and students at Université de Montréal.
Côte-des-Neiges is the most densely populated neighbourhood in Montréal and one of the most diverse. Only 44% of people in the borough use French at work. To date, no francization offer has been adapted to the needs of very small businesses (fewer than 10 employees), which happen to account for 77% of these businesses.
Supervised by the CCMM and in cooperation with the Université de Montréal’s French-language promotion office, the Bureau de valorisation de la langue française et de la Francophonie, around 20 students in disciplines related to teaching French will be paid to offer French workshops to some 30 small merchants in the neighbourhood at their place of business. Working with them two hours a week for three months, students will offer merchants training suited to their needs while allowing them to maintain their productivity.
The project will be accompanied by a promotional campaign to encourage residents to support the merchants’ efforts to learn French.
After three months, the pilot project will be evaluated and a new and improved version of it will be implemented in other boroughs with similar linguistic challenges.