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The Piquette Affair

It was April 7, 1987 and Alberta New Democrat Party (NDP) MLA Leo Piquette posed his question to the Alberta Legislature. Twice he asked, and twice he was denied. Not because his question wasn't valid—but because it was in French.

"En anglais, s'il vous plait," said Speaker David Carter, who informed him that if he did not speak in English, he would forfeit his right to ask his question.

The Alberta Legislature quickly amended its policy so that English would be the working language of the Legislature.

That ruling and the apology demanded of Piquette seemed harsh and unreasonable to the supporters of Franco-Albertan language and cultural rights. La Francophonie Jeunesse organized a 500 person rally in Edmonton. The story made national headlines and united Francophones around the country.

Despite support from Prime Minister Mulroney and the leaders of Alberta's NDP and Liberal parties, Piquette eventually conceded. However, his actions sparked a constitutional debate that would go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and incited nationwide discussion regarding the role of French in the Canadian political arena.

The Piquette Affair


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