Gisèle Lalonde graduated from the École normale at the University of Ottawa in 1951, and became a pioneer in the field of education in Francophone Ontario. Initially a teacher, she rose through the ranks to be appointed to management roles within Franco-Ontarian schools, and later to positions and committees of increasing importance, first locally and then provincially and nationally. A Franco-Ontarian high school in Orleans bears her name in recognition of her unique contribution to education in French in the province. From 1974 to 1985, she founded and led the Centre franco-ontarien de ressources pédagogiques, a Franco-Ontarian teaching resource centre in the Vanier ward of Ottawa that proudly flies the Franco-Ontarian flag as a reminder of the importance of education in French in Ontario. Her wealth of experience has led her to partner with international organizations, namely in France, Germany, Haiti and Papua-New Guinee.
Her career in education has been inextricably linked to her unwavering commitment to the rights of Franco-Ontarians. Gisèle Lalonde’s leadership of the SOS Montfort movement established her reputation as a stalwart champion of Francophone rights. Not only did she mobilize the entire Franco-Ontarian community to stop the impending closure of the Montfort hospital, the only Francophone university health centre in the province, she raised public awareness of the cause as well. Her success naturally led her to enter politics, initially as the first woman to be elected mayor of Vanier, and then as chair of the Council for Franco-Ontarian Affairs, as a candidate in provincial elections, and as chair of Opération Constitution, a group dedicated to enshrining the rights of Franco-Ontarians in the constitution.
Her dedication has earned this exceptional woman many honours, including emeritus membership on the Board of Governors of the University of Ottawa, and membership in the Ordre des francophones d’Amérique, the French Legion of Honor, the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, to name a few. Today’s honorary doctorate will take its place among the honorary doctorates conferred on her by Saint Paul University and Laurentian University, as well as the certificates from La Cité collégiale and Le collège Boréal.