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This article was published 14/3/2019 (437 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A bronze bust will honour Georges Forest, whose refusal to pay a $5 parking ticket written only English launched a landmark Supreme Court case and threatened to tip Manitoba into a constitutional crisis.
In September, St. Boniface will pay tribute to the man whose activism re-established French as an official language in Manitoba. The bust will be located at Provencher Park in the heart of the community.
"After Louis Riel, he’s number two in importance in the advancement of culture and the protection of French language rights. He was an activist all his life," said his friend, Marcien Ferland, 82, from his home in La Salle Thursday.
This week marked a minor milestone in Ferland’s campaign — le comité du monument Georges-Forest — with commitments of $10,000 from the Winnipeg Foundation and another $5,000 from the Vielfaure family. The goal is $70,000, and $55,000 has been raised to date.
Sculptor Miguel Joyal will create the bust, which will capture Forest’s signature beard. It will stand a little under one metre high, weigh about 73 kilograms, and rest on a thick granite base mounted on a concrete platform. The structure will reach a height of over two metres.
"It’s going up as a centerpiece in a development underway in the park, on the corner of Langevin (Street) and Provencher Boulevard," Ferland said.
Paving is complete for the triangular piece of land where the bust will provide focus as the first monument to catch the eye of visitors as they stroll into the park under a new archway.
Festival du Voyageur organizers also paid tribute to Forest's memory this year, marking the 50th anniversary of the festival, of which he was a founder.
George and his wife, Anita Forest, were the "first voyageurs officials" during the inaugural festival. Forest died 29 years ago on Valentine’s Day at the Festival du Voyageur while jigging at an event.
Forest’s battles for the French language made him a legal legend.
He staged a hunger strike in 1971 to preserve French language rights when St. Boniface was amalgamated into the city of Winnipeg.
The Manitoba Historical Society's website outlines the constitutional crisis he triggered over the parking ticket fracas.
"The Forest case, which began in 1975 and ended at the end of 1979, led to the re-establishment of French as the official language of Manitoba, 89 years after that status was revoked," the online site noted.
Ferland said he remembered the constitutional crisis culminated in an all-night session where MLAs were up from dusk to dawn passing the remaining outstanding laws in both French and English, so they’d be legal.
"The law said specifically, it (any law) had to be passed in both languages. Louis Riel and his government insisted that laws had to be passed in both languages. That’s key," Ferland said.