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Grey Cup champions Montreal Alouettes honoured by the Quebec government

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The Parti Québécois (PQ) took advantage of a tribute to the Grey Cup champion Alouettes on Tuesday to present star player Marc-Antoine Dequoy with a jersey bearing the words "save your English."

In doing so, the sovereigntist party wished to highlight the dazzling performance of no. 24, who, in an interview after the Nov. 19 victory, made a passionate plea for the place of French in the Canadian Football League final in Hamilton.

On Tuesday, the elected members of the national assembly celebrated the Alouettes' spectacular victory with a motion and a ceremony in the Salon rouge, evoking their sense of belonging to French Quebec.

"It's going to be OK. There won't be any cries from the heart today," said Dequoy, smiling as he spoke at the ceremony, which was attended by his other teammates, party leaders, several MNAs and the team's owner, Pierre Karl Péladeau.   

During their hard-fought 28-24 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Hamilton, he said: "They never believed in us! You look everywhere in the stadium, it's written in English. Even on the TSN TV guide, it said Toronto v. Winnipeg. But you know what, keep your English!"

"You were right to blow your top. You've said out loud what Quebecers are thinking out loud," said PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon in his speech when he tabled the motion, which was passed unanimously in the House.

Montreal Alouettes Marc Antoine Dequoy holds a t-shirt with Parti Quebecois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, at the legislature in Quebec City, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. The t-shirt given by St-Pierre Plamondon says in french <> after the comment Dequoy made after the Alouettes victory. The Alouettes were honored during a ceremony marking their Grey Cup victory: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

"It's not for nothing that we experienced a great collective thrill," said Quebec Solidaire (QS) parliamentary leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

The PQ, known for having passed Bill 101 and for its stance in favour of the French language, was not about to stop there.

After the ceremony, St-Pierre Plamondon presented Dequoy with a shirt that read: "keep your English."

"It's a great, great source of pride for Quebec that a team from our region, that people from our region, are accomplishing a feat like yours, and for many, with French tattooed on their hearts," said national assembly president Nathalie Roy.

She reminded the chamber that at the start of the season, the Alouettes were predicted to finish bottom of the Eastern Division. 

"Nobody believed in this team's chances," said St-Pierre Plamondon in his speech to the house. "We were touched by your sense of belonging to Montreal and to Quebec as a whole."

"We are inspired by a team that starts with few resources, perseveres and goes on to victory," continued the PQ leader, as if referring to the fate of his party, which was thought to be dead after the 2022 elections and which is now in the lead according to the polls.

"This story of rising up against all the odds is a bit like ours, basically, in Quebec," said Nadeau-Dubois. "This fight for respect, for what we are, for the language we speak, is also fought on the football field."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 5, 2023.

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