By Gabrielle Poulin
The past few months have been emotional ones for Ontario’s Francophones. It began with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s apology for Regulation 17 and continued with discussions about post-secondary education in French in the province, all of which gave Franco-Ontarians opportunities to get together, return to their roots and reflect on their culture.
In honour of the Mois de la francophonie, we met with three local Franco-Ontarian students who are proud of their heritage. They gave us their perspective on what it means to be a member of the minority official language community in Ontario.
Third-year communications student minoring in business administration.
“I’m the most Franco-Ontarian guy around. My parents insisted on speaking French at home, which nurtured my pride in Franco-Ontarian culture. It’s part of my identity, my roots. In high school, I often got involved in activities to promote the Francophonie and I was proud of my involvement.
As a resident of Eastern Ontario, it was obvious that I would be studying at the University of Ottawa, and I like to think that I defy the conventional by studying at the only bilingual university in Canada. My education has opened doors to lots of job opportunities, and I now consider myself a young entrepreneur. Today, I accept my situation as a member of an official language minority in Ontario, but I’m also proud to say that I succeed in an Anglophone world while remaining Francophone.”
First-year human kinetics student
“Because I grew up in a mainly Francophone environment, I never noticed problems in the daily lives of Franco-Ontarians. It was only when I arrived in Ottawa that I saw how difficult it can be to get services in French, which wasn't the case in the little Francophone village where I grew up. I took my language, French, for granted.
Even though my father is Anglophone and I am fluently bilingual, I have always thought of French as my first language. I prefer to be served in French, spoken to in French – I want to live in French. One of the things I am most proud of is having continued my studies in French: I wanted to study in my language in my province. So I am very proud to say that I have studied at two Francophone institutions in Ontario: Cité Collégiale and the University of Ottawa.”
Third-year communications student
“When I am asked whether I was proud of being a Franco-Ontarian, I don’t really know what to say because it’s a very broad question that’s hard to answer. When I was growing up, too often I was ‘forced’ to share in this Franco-Ontarian pride, so much so that I almost didn’t want to be associated with it. It wasn’t until I got to the University of Ottawa that I realized the strength and visibility of the Francophone community’s solidarity, and that being a member of a minority language community could inspire pride.
However, I do believe that even if Franco-Ontarians speak English, they are not necessarily assimilated. Being bilingual means that we are strategic in the way we speak because we can understand both sides of the issue, which isn’t always the case for unilingual Anglophones or Francophones. It gives us an advantage, not only in the workplace, but also in everyday life.”
Come celebrate the Francophonie with us! Check the complete schedule of Mois de la francophonie activities on campus.