During a Q&A session at the end of a recent speech, I was asked a curious question:
“What is the ‘End Game’ for Montreal?”
The question was not asked out of optimism, but with a tinge of cynicism lingering over a city whose upcoming 375th birthday celebrations and humble resurgence are still piqued by construction headaches, union battles, mislaid potential and decades of corruption.
With that in mind, my answer was blunt:
“Montreal is uniquely positioned to be THE worldwide leader in entrepreneurship by 2021.”
An audacious statement, to say the least. But even more audacious was to whom I credited for this powerful future positioning: The French Language Charter, Bill 101.
No matter where you stand on it politically, this once-controversial governmental directive is about to produce a generation of youthful entrepreneurs, doers and thinkers that are invaluable assets bred to lead on a global scale.
Over the past 38 years, by forcing immigrants—not to mention local anglo and allophones—to adopt the French language, Bill 101 actually planted the seeds for a forest of progressive, learned polyglots.
To use a concrete example, a young Vietnamese colleague of mine emigrated to Quebec, learned French at school, maintained her mother tongue at home, learned English on the streets and from mass media, and because of her Portuguese boyfriend (who speaks French and English in addition to his mother tongue), has now added a fourth language to her repertoire. Sigh...being bilingual is so 20th Century!
More importantly, like most people of her generation, this young Vietnamese woman also “speaks Internet,” and thus communicates with the digital world in its own language on a daily basis.
She is not alone. Hundreds of thousands like her populate Quebec, most notably its biggest metropolis. And as they grow and have children—who will be even FURTHER removed from the silly language debates that plagued and stalled their parents and grandparents—they will form a critical mass of multi-lingual, digital-literate, socially-responsible, citizens of the world.
What’s more, inspired by the wide-reaching Quebec entrepreneurial pioneers that have gone before them (everyone from Cirque du Soleil to Power Corporation to Xavier Dolan), they will understand that the globe is there for their taking.
Best of all, this type of citizen will be unique to Montreal. Where else on earth will multiplicities of languages, cultures, smarts and guts collide together in such a Big Bang of prosperity drivers?
So what’s the “End Game” for Montreal?
Merely the starting point for dominant, powerful prosperity.
See you in five years!