Celebrated on September 25 since 2010, Franco-Ontarian Day is dear to the heart of Francophones and Francophiles. At the University of Ottawa, we want to highlight this day and remind the entire university community of the importance of the Ontario's Francophonie, which is at the heart of our mission.
The Franco-Ontario Day is celebrated in many ways: some people attend festivals, webinars, or purchase books written by Franco-Ontarian authors. Some people take the opportunity to advocate for the rights of Francophones, while taking the pulse of the Francophonie in the Franco-Ontarian community, in order to protect the French language and ensure its sustainability.
The Franco-Ontarian reality is rich in its expressions and may vary greatly from one region of Ontario to another. In order to show the range of these different Franco-Ontarian experiences, the Office of the Vice-Rector, International and Francophonie is giving the floor to Franco-Ontarians, members of the university community: Sabrina Leroux, student Honours Bachelor of Social Science in Criminology, Joël Beddows, Professor and Chair of the Department of Theatre, and Rachelle Clark, Director, Wellness and Recreation Sector, Student Affairs.
Here are their stories, in their own words – a glimpse into their unique perspectives, their distinct realities.
Enjoy the read!
Sabrina Leroux, student, Honours Bachelor of Social Science in Criminology
"This year, I am celebrating our ancestors, who gave us the opportunity to be taught in French and to have access to services in our mother tongue thanks to their constant struggles to defend our rights as a linguistic minority.
"For me, being a Franco-Ontarian means standing tall and being proud of our community’s resilience in ensuring the survival of French in Ontario. More specifically, I am proud of my grand-parents, who overcame major challenges to pass down the French language to their children. Their strength and courage inspire me to fight for my Franco-Ontarian heritage.
"Every day, I try to take small measures to continue the battle of my ancestors. Living as a Franco-Ontarian, it takes constant effort to hold fast against the majority and to avoid speaking English in social interactions. When I go to a restaurant, I always start by speaking French to demonstrate the requirement and need for services in French.
"Living as a Francophone in Ontario means making a determined effort every day to study in French and work in a bilingual environment. It’s more than a language and a culture; it means being part of a large family."
Joël Beddows, associate professor and theater director
"I am a professor; I am an artist; I am a citizen. I impart knowledge, I create theatre productions, and I live in French, in Ontario.
"This language and its infinite possibilities, like my Franco-Ontarian identity, are vital to both my public and private life. More importantly, they allow me to navigate an increasingly complex social, political, and ideological landscape.
"Could I have written these same words 30 years ago, when I was myself a student at the University of Ottawa? I doubt it. At that time, we dreamt of a society where debate and dissension could be appreciated. Diversity in any form was suspect. It was simply more important to speak in a united voice.
"I am the happiest of men to have seen a shift to a multifaceted Franco-Ontarian society in my lifetime. Today, Francophones in Ontario embrace plurality. It feels good. It allows us to resist both the stagnation and the conservatisms of yesteryear. It especially allows us to believe in the possibility of another 400 years of French presence in Ontario."
Rachelle Clark, director, Wellness and Recreation Sector, Student Affairs
“I feel comfortable in my Francophonie at uOttawa.
"When someone asks me if I am francophone, I have a standard response. As if apologizing I usually answer: “yes, but I come from a small northern town in Ontario where “the French” are the minority”. This is what is referred to as “Linguistic Insecurity” (Wernicke, 2021), where I believe that my particular linguistic “variety” is not good enough.
"However, I have come to learn that my linguistic “variety” is not only acceptable but is an important part of my identify. It tells my story as a Franco-Ontarian growing up in a small town in Northern Ontario where only 12 percent of the population spoke French. It reminds me of my culture, my family, my heritage, my pride and sense of belonging. To me, Being Franco-Ontarian is about celebrating my language, my roots, and a commitment to understanding our history in order to nourish and foster a future where our language and culture can flourish.
"From the tourtière, cipaille and pets de sœur from Mémère’s cookbook and lullabies like Frère Jacques and Fait dodo that echo across the generations in my family, being Franco-Ontarian is about being proud of where we come from and where we are heading.
"Despite my linguistic insecurity, I am proud of being a Franco Ontarian and have ensured that my daughters grow up as Franco-Ontarians, even though they are also part of the minority in their community. We share our traditions, our songs and our sacred recipes with our anglophone family and neighbours and in doing so, we celebrate our heritage.
"At uOttawa, every language is welcome, and every culture is celebrated. On this day, we celebrate you, Franco-Ontarian, regardless of your 'linguistic variety'."