Olga Melikoff and Murielle Parkes
Olga Melikoff and Murielle Parkes were the movers and shakers behind the parent-driven experiment in bilingual education. Immersion blossomed into an iconic feature of the English-language public education system in Quebec, and then expanded throughout the rest of Canada. Some fifty years ago, Melikoff, Parkes and the late Valerie Neale were leaders of a parent group that established Canada’s first French immersion program at the former Margaret Pendlebury Elementary School in the Montreal suburb of St. Lambert. This formidable trio of stay-at-home mothers recognized during the Quiet Revolution that Quebec was changing, and that English-language public education needed to change with it. Working with bilingualism experts Wallace Lambert and Richard Tucker in 1965-66, the St. Lambert Parents for Bilingual Education created a pioneering French immersion class of 26 students. This initiative ultimately changed the face of English-language public education across Canada. It has also helped forge linguistic duality into a defining characteristic of our nation.