Network News October 2017

QCGN BUSY DOING HOMEWORK BEFORE AND AFTER “LA RENTRÉE”

By Jim Shea
QCGN President

I hope you had a relaxing summer and that “La Rentrée” has been productive. While some of us spent our summers on vacation at the beach or at the cottage, the QCGN office has been busy moving forward on an assortment of files. That included reacting to the mid-summer publication of the long awaited, but less than perfect, regulation governing the committee which advises the Health Minister on plans that guarantee access to health and social services to English-speaking Quebecers in their own language. We also prepared to advise the government on the creation of a new Secretariat for Quebec’s English-speaking community and planned two major advocacy activities this fall where QCGN and other community leaders will meet with MPs, Senators and MNAs to discuss the priorities and needs of our Community of Communities.

QCGN Mourns Loss of Gretta Chambers

In September, we were deeply saddened by the loss of an influential and beloved member of our extended family. Gretta Chambers passed away on Sept. 9 after a lifetime of remarkable achievements. Born of an English father and a French mother in Montreal in 1927, Chambers earned a degree in political science from McGill in 1947. She went on to become a prominent political commentator who was featured in The Gazette, on CBC Radio and on CTV television, then CFCF. Much of her work consisted of explaining French-speaking Quebec to the English-speaking community and building bridges between our Two Solitudes. In 1991, Chambers broke the glass ceiling to become the first female chancellor of McGill University. While serving as chancellor, she chaired a task force on English education in Quebec that led to the creation of the Advisory Board on English Education, which she was named the first chair. Her professional and volunteer commitments also included being chair of the board of directors of the McGill University Research Institute and the Montreal Children’s Hospital, and sitting on McGill’s Board of Governors. She was also actively involved in the Montreal Consortium for Human Rights Advocacy Training at McGill. During her lifetime, Chambers received numerous honours, including QCGN’s very own Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award in 2012. She was also named an Officer of the Ordre National du Quebec in 1993 and a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994 – to which she was later promoted to Companion in 2000. More recently she was named a Commander of the Ordre de Montréal in 2016. Chambers is survived by her brother, prominent philosopher Charles Taylor, five children including QCGN Vice-President Geoffrey Chambers, and eight wonderful grandchildren including Egan Chambers, a Vanier College music student who has been a summer intern at the QCGN for the past two summers. Family, friends and politicians who attended her funeral service last Saturday at the Church of St. Leon de Westmount included Quebec’s Higher Education Minister Hélène David, Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil, D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum, Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée, Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and former Prime Minister Joe Clark. Read our statement, as well as coverage by The Gazette, the Globe and Mail, CTV Montreal, and CBC Quebec.

Progress on Secretariat

Back in June, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced plans to create a new secretariat dedicated to English-speaking Quebecers and opened the door to naming a minister responsible for our community. The creation of such a body is a longstanding priority of our Network which has long believed that our community’s concerns are not being transmitted through Quebec’s bureaucracy where our community is notoriously underrepresented. In fact, exactly four years before Premier Couillard’s announcement, our Network debated the issue and passed a unanimous resolution requesting formal representation within the government of Quebec to give voice to the policy-development interests of the English-speaking community. The impact of our absence was obvious during reforms to health care, which annihilated many of our institutions; and educational reforms, which threatened the constitutional language rights of English-speaking Quebecers. We have opened discussions with the Conseil Exécutif – essentially the Premier’s Ministry – on what a secretariat focused on English-speaking Quebec could look like. We explained the need for such a secretariat and how it could prevent unnecessary conflicts that arise when policies and programs are developed without an understanding of English-speaking Quebec and its institutions. Couillard’s officials have yet to develop a model for the secretariat, although they have studied similar mechanisms within other Canadian jurisdictions – an exercise the QCGN also undertook before developing a proposal that would be most effective for our community. We are also discussing funding for research and community capacity to effectively interface with government and the new secretariat.

Provincial Access Committee

As mentioned in my preamble, we are also active on the health front. In July, Health Minister Gaetan Barrette published a new regulation governing the Comité provincial pour la prestation des services de santé et des services sociaux en langue anglaise aka the Provincial Access Committee in La Gazette Officielle du Québec (French only).  With 45 days to react to the publication, the QCGN’s Standing Committee on Health and Social Services reached out to a small group of members and health and social service stakeholders to examine the regulation and its implications. Under the direction of Committee chair Eric Maldoff, the ad-hoc group worked closely with a lawyer remunerated by QCGN and Jeffery Hale to redraft the regulation to reflect many concerns. These included serious reservations about the composition of the group that would be proposing committee candidates to the Minister; the mandate of the access committee; as well as the role of its secretary.  Our proposed rewrite, which was endorsed by the Board of the Community Health and Social Service Network (CHSSN), strengthens the role of the community in selecting committee members and reinforces their obligation to maintain relations with Quebec’s English-speaking community. It also requires that the committee’s secretary have knowledge of legislative and administrative framework with regards to access to health and social services in English as well as a genuine understanding of the preoccupations of the English-speaking communities. One month later, we are awaiting news on the final regulation.

Bill 101 Turns 40

The adoption of Bill 101, aka the Charter of the French Language, that was embraced by Premier René Lévesque’s Parti Québécois government in August of 1977, marked a major milestone in language politics in Quebec. The law which resolved “to make French the language of Government and the Law, as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business,” was commemorated by supporters and critics alike this past summer. It is important to note that Bill 101 was preceded in 1974 by Bill 22 and in 1969 by Bill 63. Championed by Liberal Premier Robert Bourassa, Bill 22 first made French the sole official language of Quebec. Introduced by the Union Nationale government of Jean-Jacques Bertrand, Bill 63 was a reaction to controversy and violence that erupted when the Catholic school board of Saint Leonard insisted that children of mostly Italian immigrants be required to go to French schools. Bill 101 with its assorted regulations and its enabling regulatory bodies, including the Office Québécois de la langue française (once baptized by English media as the language police or tongue troopers) have been the source of much angst in the English-speaking community. Amended more than a half-dozen times over the past four decades, the Charter was extended to include controversial provisions including controls on the use of English on commercial signs and restrictions on enrollment into English schools. Another amendment by PQ Language Minister Gérald Godin included in the Charter’s preamble that enforcing French as the official language of Quebec should be “respectful of the institutions of the English-speaking community of Québec, and respectful of the ethnic minorities, whose valuable contribution to the development of Québec it readily acknowledges.” In June of 2014, QCGN’s membership adopted a Statement of Principles that clearly spells out our Network’s support for the French-speaking majority and our respect for the French language. Then President Dan Lamoureux stated that “while QCGN accepts French as the official language of Quebec, we remain adamant that coercive measures will neither promote nor protect the French language.” Read QCGN’s op-ed signed by Vice-President Geoffrey Chambers and myself in The Gazette.

Parti Québécois and CEGEPs

While on the delicate subject of language, QCGN has strenuously objected to recent suggestions by Parti Québécois hardliners that funding to English CEGEPs be cut to curb the growing enrolment of French-speaking students in English junior colleges which has been on the increase in the past few years. The QCGN argues that coercive measures to prevent Quebec youth from becoming more bilingual are not good for the province. Read stories by The Gazette here and here, by the Canadian Press, and view coverage on CTV Your Morning, CBC Montreal here, here and here, on Global Montreal, as well as QCGN Director General Sylvia Martin-Laforge’s live interview with CTV Montreal here.

Oops, Census Language Numbers Corrected

On Aug. 2, Statistics Canada released the language data from the 2016 Census. Soon after, anomalies were detected in the mother-tongue data for various regions in Quebec and an in-depth investigation was launched to identify their source. Noted demographer Jack Jedwab, executive vice-president for the Association for Canadian Studies, said he was not surprised to see a 10 per cent increase in the number of mother tongue Anglophones in Quebec over the past five years. He was flabbergasted when he dug deeper into where those people were said to be living, and found booms of English-speaking Quebecers outside of metropolitan Montreal. On Aug. 17, Statistics Canada updated the language data, after correcting computer program errors used to compile these statistics. An in-depth explanation is provided here. Statistical kerfuffle aside, the QCGN notes that while our numbers are not dropping, our community is experiencing decline in almost every other way – high unemployment, declining enrolment in our schools, loss of institutions and institutional governance and so on. Current and future growth in our community’s population is coming from immigration, and these people’s children cannot attend our schools. As a result, enrolment in our schools has fallen 60 per cent since 1971, compared to a 36 per cent drop in enrolment in the French system, and this gap will continue to increase. As the QCGN has always said, the threat to English-speaking Quebec is not numbers, and it is not language retention. It is about social, political, and economic inclusion and maintaining management and control of our institutions. That is why we are more focused on upcoming data releases on education, labour, and language of work that will help us understand if we have made socio-economic progress since the 2011 Census.  While on the subject of the census, note that Statistics Canada has changed the way it calculates ‘corrected mother-tongue’ figures in this Census. People who declared more than one mother tongue or more than one language spoken most often at home are included in more than one category. Therefore, the sum of the categories is greater than the total population. Previously, multiple declarations were evenly distributed between French and English mother tongue groups in the corrected figures. The impact of this change is an increase in the statistical size of French and English mother-tongue populations. Therefore, care must be taken when doing longitudinal analysis of mother-tongue data between censuses. Read coverage in The Gazette, from Presse Canadienne, in Le Devoir on CBC Montreal here, here and here, on CTV Montreal here, and on Global Montreal here. Also read opinion pieces by William Johnson here and here.

In September, Statistics Canada released household income data from the 2016 Census. Although data from the public release was not cross-tabulated to official language variables, the QCGN was able to obtain tables that demonstrate the economic challenges that continue to face our community, including incomes that are more than $3,000 lower than the provincial median. We are negotiating with Statistics Canada to improve the usability of last week’s income data, which was derived from the short-form Census, and the more in-depth long-form data, which will be released in October.

Our Languages Blog

The Language Portal of Canada, the Canadian reference for language, has officially launched its Our Languages blog which aims to provide a meeting place where Canadians can come together to discuss language-related topics, learn more about community initiatives and celebrate their successes with others. Over the coming weeks, the Language Portal will publish posts on difficult points of language, language-related news and events in Canada, English and French language learning, and much more! To stay in the loop, subscribe to their email notification service and follow them on social media. In addition, feel free to comment on blog posts and share them with your network. Additionally, if you would you like to share your passion for language and become a guest blogger contact the Language Portal of Canada team.

FIVE INSPIRING COMMUNITY LEADERS TO BE HONOURED BY QCGN

Remarkable members of the English-speaking community will be honoured in late October for their singular contributions and outstanding community leadership, the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) announced Wednesday. Clifford Lincoln, Sid Stevens and Earl De La Perralle, as well as James Carter have been named winners of QCGN’s ninth annual Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award. In addition, Claudia Di Iorio has been chosen for the third annual Young Quebecers Leading the Way Award.

“In their individual ways, and in far different fields of endeavour, our Community Award winners have proven to be extraordinary leaders who have made exceptional contributions to our Community of Communities,” QCGN President James Shea said. “All have been visionaries, dedicated to their communities and their causes. They not only inspire social change—they embody it through their actions and their commitment”

A passionate and principled advocate for fairness, Clifford Lincoln is a bridge-builder and a consensus maker. He has been an instrumental and inspiring leader, within the ranks of federal and provincial cabinets and far beyond. Driven by his unerring sense of justice, and adept at balancing the needs and aspirations of differing communities, he has made and continues to make a real and lasting difference in such areas as English-language rights; the environment; education; public transit; health and social services; and the rights of the intellectually handicapped.

Since the tender ages of 13 and nine, co-awardees Sid Stevens and Earl De La Perralle have nurtured, built, and led Sun Youth Organization. This unique Montreal community group has, since 1954, developed street-level programs to meet an array of serious and often underserved community needs. These range from sports activities and summer camp for at-risk and other youth to a year-round food bank and other significant support work. The best testimony to this group’s effectiveness is the number of individuals who return to Sun Youth as adult volunteers, to give back of themselves after having received a Sun Youth helping hand during their own youth.

James Carter has been a tireless and exceptionally effective advocate for improved access to health and social services in English. He remains a community pillar, thanks to the determination, vision and negotiating skills he honed over the years. His patience has also proven a hallmark; as a result, his long-term mentoring has exerted quiet, positive influence through English-speaking communities right across Quebec. He strategically harnesses the talent and dedication of individuals within diverse community organizations. With steady guidance, he quietly empowers many to successfully tackle and succeed at leadership roles.

Claudia Di Iorio is a brilliant, resilient and courageous young woman who overcame adversity to become a highly visible and influential proponent for safe driving. Beginning in 2010, during the summer of her 16th birthday, she battled back from devastating injuries caused by an impaired driver. A spokesperson for the Cool Taxi coupon initiative since 2012, she participates in numerous school presentations, documentaries and media interviews and also speaks for the Fondation Neuro-Trauma Marie-Robert. Recognizing her extraordinary road-safety advocacy and inspirational influence, the Quebec government nominated her to the Board of Directors of Quebec’s automobile insurance board, the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ). She thus became the youngest member in Quebec history of the board of directors of a crown corporation.

The Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award honours individuals who have gone above and beyond in contributing to the vitality and reputation of the English-speaking community and who have built bridges of understanding between Quebecers of different backgrounds. The Young Quebecers Leading the Way Award was created in 2015 by QCGN, the Fondation Notre Home Foundation and CBC Quebec to recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of English-speaking Quebecers under the age of 30.

Winners have been invited to receive their awards at a community celebration taking place Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, at Montreal’s prestigious St-James Club. Co-sponsored by the Fondation Notre Home Foundation, the evening will be emceed by CTV Montreal lead anchor Mutsumi Takahashi, who was recently honoured with a Radio Television and Digital News Association (RTDNA Canada) lifetime achievement award for more than three decades of journalistic excellence. Details and tickets at https://qcgn.ca/community-awards/

BISHOP’S FORUM YOUTH CONVEYS A SENSE THAT CHANGE IS POSSIBLE FOR QUEBEC 

 

By Rita Legault
QCGN Director of Communications

Awesome, phenomenal, empowering – these are the superlatives youths used to describe their experience at the inaugural Bishop’s Forum, a week-long conference where young English-speaking Quebecers engaged in deep discussions about Quebec society and their role in seeking change.

From Aug. 13 – 18, some 50 young leaders from across the province converged on the campus of Bishop’s University in Lennoxville where they got to engage directly with political, community and business leaders who have helped shape this province.

Politicians on the impressive roster of speakers included former Premier Jean Charest, newly minted Quebec Solidaire MNA Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Senator Joan Fraser, Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, Indigenous MP and activist Roméo Saganash and Richmond MNA Karine Vallières, the Parliamentary Youth Secretary to Premier Philippe Couillard.

Business, community leaders included filmmaker co-founder and CEO of CoPower David Berliner, Lufa Farms co-founder Lauran Rathmell, Quebec filmmaker Kevin Tierney, Ricochet Media founder Ethan Cox, and international human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis.

“Having access to leaders of this calibre was an opportunity I would never have had had I not participated in the Bishop’s Forum,” said North Hatley resident Chad Bean, a Carleton University graduate who just applied to McGill Law School. “I also got a chance to connect with some really interesting students from across the province.”

“Meeting leaders who have served the community at all levels, from former Premier Jean Charest to our current elected officials, as well as movers and shakers in business and community organizations, showed me and my fellow Forumers that it is possible for English-speaking Quebecers to have a seat at the decision-making tables,” said Michael Forian of Concordia University.

Marissa Matthews, who has just moved from Grosse Ile in the Magdalen Islands to study at Champlain College in Lennoxville, said the Forum was a great experience that helped her come out of her shell. “It was an eye-opening experience to just come here and listen to what these people had to say… how as a society we can change things for the better.”

“The Forum was a wonderful opportunity for young people to connect to their identity as Quebecers and as leaders and to get to know each other and discover their shared vision for the province,” said Dr. Heather Lawford, associate director of the Bishop’s Forum who also coached one of the groups. “As coaches and adult supports, we were privileged to witness the remarkable talents, insights and passions of these young citizens. It was an unforgettable experience!”

In between meetings with prominent leaders, youths met in six working groups to prepare presentations to a mock parliamentary commission on the change they want to see in their communities and in their province. On the final day of the forum, the groups presented a variety of innovative policy suggestions on topics from Indigenous rights to linguistic rights, diversity and immigration to health care and mental health, as well as sustainability and climate change.

Commissioners, who were impressed with youth presentation, included Marie-Claude Bibeau, Federal Minister of International Development and La Francophonie; Rita de Santis, Quebec Minister responsible for Access to Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions; Russell Copeman, Borough Mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace; Marlene Jennings, former Member of Parliament; Jim Shea, President of the Quebec Community Groups Network; as well as Bishop’s Principal Michael Goldbloom.

“I hope that youth left here feeling more confident that they have the tools, the ability, and the determination to make effective changes in society,” said Goldbloom, chair of the Bishop’s Forum. “I, for one, am convinced that our youth are going to make a profound difference.”

“Bishop’s Forumers are not just the future of our community and our province, they are its present,” said Bishop’s Forum director James Hughes, noting that it was exciting to see so many youths interested in the future of Quebec’s English-speaking community.

“The Bishop’s Forum was clearly an unhyphenated success in terms of giving participants access to the people who have shaped and are shaping the province thereby conveying a true sense of the change that is possible in Quebec”, he said. “There is no question this new conference for English speaking youth is off to a terrific start.”

For more on the Bishop’s Forum, listen to the feature by CBC Sherbrooke reporter Alison Brunette, listen to an interview with James Hughes on Quebec AM’s Marika Wheeler, and read the wrap up feature in The Record.

The Bishop’s Forum has funding for three consecutive years and any member of the English-speaking community aged 18 to 24 are eligible to participate. More information on the Bishop’s Forum can be found at www.bishopsforum.ubishops.ca

WEBSITE SUPPORTS ENGLISH-SPEAKING PATIENTS LEAVING HOME FOR MEDICAL SERVICES

Submitted by the Community Health and Social Service Network

Several members of the Community Health and Social Services Network have developed a website (travel4health.ca) to provide information and support to English-speaking patients who must travel away from home for medical services.

Patients from the eastern regions of Quebec (Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Bas-St-Laurent, Côte-Nord) must often travel to larger centres—such as Quebec City, Rimouski, Sept-Îles and elsewhere— for specialized medical services that are unavailable in their regions.

The regional English-speaking community organizations realized that this can be a difficult experience for English speakers, some of whom are unfamiliar with these larger centres and their hospitals, and may be not sufficiently bilingual to communicate effectively when it comes to medical vocabulary and when under stress.

To better document the situation, community-based action research was carried out from 2015 to 2017, through surveys, focus groups and individual interviews. The results of this study pointed to the need for information to help patients and their loved ones prepare for their trip and navigate the cities and their hospitals. That information has been gathered together on the website, and hard-copy booklets have also been printed for the organizations to hand out to those who prefer to have a paper copy. Those “toolkits” can also be downloaded from the website and printed, if desired.

The information is organized in the following categories: preparing for your trip, local services and support (by region of departure: Lower North Shore, North Shore, Lower Saint-Lawrence, Magdalen Islands, Gaspé Coast), information for each destination (by hospital and city: Quebec City, Rimouski, Sept-Îles + Baie-Comeau, Chicoutimi, Chandler, Blanc-Sablon), information and advice for the stay at the hospital, information and advice before returning home, cost and refunds, and downloads.

As this network works closely with Francophone service providers who may also benefit from this source of centralized information, the website is available in both English and French, as are the booklets (toolkits). In addition, many patients have French-speaking family members who will also be able to find the relevant information for their loved one.

It is hoped that this source of information will improve the experience for “travelling 4 health” away from home for both English speakers and the general population of Quebec’s eastern regions.

If you would like more information, please contact any of the following persons:

Quebec City: Jennifer Johnson, Executive Director, CHSSN at (418) 684-2289, ext. 223, jjohnson@chssn.org

New Carlisle: Cathy Brown, Executive Director, CASA (Committee for Anglophone Social Action) at (418) 752-5995, casa75@globetrotter.net

Gaspé Town: Jessica Synnott, Executive Director, Vision Gaspé Percé Now, at 418-368-3212, j.synnott@vgpn.ca

Grosse-Ile: Helena Burke, Executive Director, CAMI (Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders) at (418) 985-2116 ext. 1, helena@micami.ca

Baie-Comeau: Jody Lessard, Executive Director, North Shore Community Association (NSCA) at (418) 296-1545, nsca@quebecnorthshore.org

Saint Paul’s River: Kim Buffitt, Director of Programing, Coaster’s Association, at (418) 379-2006, hssnpi@globetrotter.net

Métis-sur-mer: Melanie Leblanc, Executive Director, Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence (HLSL) at (418) 740-3339, mleblanc@heritagelsl.ca

CAMI CELEBRATES 30 YEARS AND COMMEMORATES 125TH ANNIVERSARY OF GROSSE ÎLE

The Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders (CAMI) is pleased with the overall success of community celebrations that took place in July to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Anglophone municipality of Grosse Île, the centennial of the St. Peter’s-by-the-Sea church building, and the 30th anniversary of CAMI.

The week began on Monday, July 24th with the opening ceremony and a community picnic at the Grosse Île Recreational Site, which included all kinds of fun activities for the young and young at heart.

On Tuesday, we commemorated the centennial of Old Harry’s St-Peter’s-by-the-Sea church building. Built in 1916, the church was construction of wood from a shipwreck. The entrance doors, called “Gates to Infinity,” are a memorial to Aaron Clarke, a resident of Old-Harry, who was swept out to sea when he tried to rescue some swimmers. The church has been deconsecrated in 2014.

We also celebrated the building’s new vocation and the unveiling of the “A People of the Sea” exhibit. Project coordinator, Nancy Ellen Clark, said the idea was self-imposed, as the building itself was constructed with salvaged lumber. The permanent exhibit presents more than 120 Magdalen Islanders, both Anglophone and Francophone, who have perished by the waters, including shipwrecks.

Its inauguration launched the official celebration day for the 125th anniversary of the Municipality of Grosse-Île, which continued with a ceremony attended by many citizens, visitors and dignitaries, including the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Ghislaine Saikaley (centre in above photo).

Visitors also include a number of representatives of the QCGN organizations including Sharleen Sullivan of Neighbours Regional Association of Rouyn-Noranda and Cathy Brown of the Committee for Anglophone Social Action  (CASA) in the Gaspé. They are pictured above with CAMI’s Executive Director Helena Burke, Danielle Azoulay of Canadian Heritage, and Charles Taker a native from the Magdalen Islands who now works for the Commissioner’s Office. The 30th Mayor of Grosse-Île, Rose-Elmonde Clarke, was pleased with the public’s participation.

“A community tour of the village by bus, a beach party and a host of other activities were planned and delivered by the organizing committee, and supported by many volunteers,” said Burke, who thanked staff and volunteers for their commitment in bringing CAMI to where it is today.

On Thursday, Burke, along with the Saikaley, National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, the MP for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, and Îles-de-la-Madeleine MNA Germain Chevarie visited Entry Island which is currently in the process of implementing a revitalization project and having dignitaries from both the federal and provincial government visit the island was a great success. Visits to the community garden, museum, church, and the school were all part of the days’ itinerary.

The festivities ended on Saturday, July 29 with a closing ceremony and a dance at the Grosse Île Community Centre.

A non-profit organization, CAMI has been working in the English-speaking community of the Magdalen Islands since 1987. CAMI works for the community, promoting the rights of Anglophone Magdalen Islanders and ensures that English speakers benefit from the various available programs, across an array of sectors, and that English speakers benefit from these programs in their own language. Health, education, language, culture and heritage are all part of CAMI’s mandate, a mandate that will continue to guide the organization through the years to come.

CANADIAN PARENTS FOR FRENCH TURNS 40

By Marla Williams

CPF-Quebec Coordinator

It is hard to remember a time when French Immersion was not a household name in Canada. Like everything, however, it has an origin. In this case, we need to venture back 51 years to Saint-Lambert, on Montreal’s South Shore, where a dedicated group of English-speaking parents meticulously and tirelessly planned, collaborated, and fought to establish such a program for their children.

In the decade that followed, fledgling French as a second language (FLS) programs cropped up throughout the country in places such as Toronto, Ottawa, Coquitlam B.C., and Sackville N.B., as an increasing number of parents wanted to provide their children with the gift of two languages. Missing, though, was a consistent voice from coast to coast.

Enter Keith Spicer, Canada’s first Commissioner of Official Languages. Eager to promote bilingualism among Canadian youth, Spicer gathered enough money together to organize a national conference entitled Parents’ Conference on French Language and Exchange Opportunities, held in Ottawa in March 1977. Parents were finally able to come together from across the country to discuss how to advance their goals and by the conference’s end, Canadian Parents for French (CPF), the now well-established volunteer-based advocacy group, was founded.

CPF volunteers quickly began advocating for more French Immersion programs throughout the country. Within 10 years, they accomplished many important achievements and created many resources that were indispensable to the sustainability of the French language in Canada, such as:

  • the first comprehensive overview for parents of federal and provincial funding opportunities for FSL education;
  • the first Canadian directory of exchange programs, summer camps, and summer language classes;
  • a directory of French Immersion programs throughout the country; and
  • the first exhaustive Bibliography of Articles and Books on Bilingualism in Education.

CPF also published a book full of articles by researchers, parents and educators entitled So You Want Your Child to Learn French! This collection was the first to offer information to parents who wanted their children to learn French. Several CPF chapters also started actively creating FSL activities for their communities and the Concours d’art oratoire, one of CPF’s most important initiatives, began in 1985.

These concerted efforts on a national scale led to many successes and skyrocketing French immersion numbers. French immersion enrolment grew by about 650 per cent in the decades following the organization’s creation. Some 320,000 students were registered in such programs by the end of the ’90s.

40 years later…

2017 marks a significant year in the history of Canadian Parents for French as we are celebrating our 40th anniversary. Looking back on the past four decades, it is clear there is much to be proud of. Now a proactive national network with 10 branch offices and some 150 chapters in communities coast to coast, CPF is widely recognized as the national network of volunteers which values French as an integral part of Canada and which is dedicated to the promotion and creation of French as a second language learning opportunities for young Canadians.

To this day, the volunteers and staff at CPF continue to work with all levels of government and society to ensure that French Immersion retains its momentum and that the quality of Core French programs is up to par. CPF is also striving to improve access to FSL programs across the country and is working toward ensuring that academically challenged students have equal opportunities to participate and flourish in these programs. CPF volunteers continue to dedicate hundreds of hours throughout Canada to provide students with opportunities to practice their French. You can even find Carnaval and Cabane à sucre activities in some remote Canadian towns!

During this important year, we are celebrating the many people who have come together to promote French opportunities for Canadian youth over the past 40 years. To view video stories and a timeline of important milestones please visit: http://www.cpfnationallegacy.ca/.

In honour of CPF’s 40th anniversary, CPF has launched the 2017 donor campaign: $40 for 40 Years of CPF Success! If you would like to pledge $40 to support linguistic duality and FSL learning opportunities for youth across Canada, please visit: https://cpf.ca/en/donate/.

EASTERN TOWNSHIPS HERITAGE FAIR COMING UP

It stands to reason that the first horseless steam powered car in Canada and the first car accident occurred in the same village.

Find out where in the Eastern Townships these firsts and other notable transportation milestones occurred at the upcoming Eastern Townships Heritage Fair, which is being organized by the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network, in partnership with Townshippers’ Association.

Historical societies and museums from all across the Eastern Townships will gather at the Eaton Corner Museum on Friday, October 13, 2017, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to share their knowledge of history and genealogy.

Come and meet heritage keepers who can give you tips on protecting your old photographs, guide you in family ancestry projects and let you know all about the rich history of the Townships.

Also on hand will be well-known fiddler Terry Howel, and local author Nick Fonda will sign copies of his new book Richmond Now and Then: An Anecdotal History.

Both QAHN and Townshippers’ will be onsite with information and membership opportunities, so come and say hello and find out more about your local history.

“Autumn is the season for exploring,” said Matthew Farfan, Executive Director of QAHN. “What a glorious time of year to rediscover the Eastern Townships’ history and culture!”

Join the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network and Townshippers’ Association for an afternoon of discovery and exchange at the Eaton Corner Museum which is located at 374 Route 253 in Cookshire-Eaton. Admission is free. For more information, please call 819 564-9595 or visit the QAHN website.