Asked about the proposals for a French commonwealth, [Francois Mitterrand] told a news conference, "I'm not sure that the British Commonwealth and our French community are comparable. In any case, we are not trying to imitate the Commonwealth. Some leaders have publicly advocated something similar. But we really did not deliberate about it at this meeting. The important thing is that we have tightened our ties."
This first summit conference had been proposed more than 20 years ago by former President Leopold Senghor of Senegal, but the idea foundered on the Canadian government's refusal to permit the province of Quebec to attend as a separate delegation. With separatists no longer in control of Quebec and the strong-willed Pierre Elliott Trudeau no longer prime minister, a compromise was finally worked out, allowing Canadian participation in the summit.
The opportunity to align itself firmly with other French-speaking governments was obviously of great significance to both the Canadian and Quebec governments. Almost 90 Canadian journalists, perhaps a third of the total here, covered the conference, and news briefings by Canadian and Quebec delegates sometimes overshadowed those by the French delegates.