MONTREAL -- Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante announced a new action plan to enhance the French language in the city over the next four years — a first for the metropolis.

The city aims to, among other things, promote French as the city’s official language and hire more municipal workers in secretarial and communications departments who are proficient in French. 

Plante announced the plan during a virtual press conference Monday and said it’s meant to “reaffirm” Montreal as the French metropolis in North America -- but she was careful to note that the rights of English-speaking and Indigenous communities will be preserved.

“Montreal is a great city because of its diversity, culture, and, of course, language. Whether your mother tongue is French, English or any other, this plan does not in any way affect the history and traditions of any of Montreal’s different communities,” Plante told reporters Monday. 

“English institutions will continue to operate and offer services in a way in which they always have. Many citizens from various countries in the world have chosen to make Montreal their home.”

The plan includes 24 action items. Some of its other goals include promoting French-language arts and cultural works and raising awareness about French-language learning for newcomers and post-secondary students. 

"We want to make sure everyone has the tools and means to learn and speak French in our beautiful city," said Plante. 

"We're hoping to have more activities so that international students and new immigrants can have access to the local and Francophone culture," added Cathy Wong, the executive committee member responsible for diversity and inclusion. 

Quebec Community Groups Network vice-president Eva Ludvig said she's glad to see nothing in the plan enforces the use of French.

"She's talking about promoting the French language, not policing it," she said. "We'repleased to see that."

Still, Ludvig said concerns remain, especially as the federal government prepares to table language reform legislation and the provincial government works on beefing up French language laws.

"We are concerned and we are keeping a close eye on this," she said. "We are hoping they will be following Montreal's example of promotion, rather than seeing the English-speaking community as a threat."

Plante’s plan comes in the midst of an ongoing debate about the decline of French in Montreal. The mayor said the goal is to ensure everyone has the tools and the means to learn and speak French in the city. 

Just last week, the mayor was criticized by a few people on social media for posting a tweet in English announcing a plan to invest $25 million to revitalize the city’s downtown. 

Plante told CTV Montreal anchor Maya Johnson that it’s a delicate balance to respect both sides as mayor.

“It’s delicate, it’s emotional. I understand why because our language is who we are, it’s an open window to our culture so I do understand,” she said last Friday. 

“I’m glad that I can express myself in English or another languages and sometimes I think it’s important to speak to all kinds of people, whether they’re anglophones, allophones.”