French at an inflection point in Canada

We are the children of history, of those here in Ontario who rose up against the calamity of Regulation 17. Who created our own secret society, our own credit unions and our own university news media. Who fought for our high schools in Sturgeon Falls and Penetanguishene. Who roared their anger during SOS Montfort and the Resistance. Of those who persist in speaking French.

Posted on August 29

Isabelle Bourgeault-Tasse

Isabelle Bourgeault-Tasse
Franco-Ontarian writer

We are always here. We are still fighting for our language. We are still resisting.

However, I write these words from a “cruel reality” for the Canadian Francophonie.

Recently released data from the 2021 Census on languages ​​spoken in Canada reveals our sad reality: French continues to decline — in Ontario⁠1 and in New Brunswick⁠2 too. Quebec. Manitoba⁠3. And in all French-speaking communities in Canada – except in the Yukon.

None of this was inevitable, tweeted the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities (FCFA).

“There are 2,790,300 of us who speak French in nine provinces and three territories. This is a slight increase of 49,000 compared to 2016,” says the FCFA.

But if the federal government had reached its Francophone immigration targets since 2008, we would be at least 2,860,000.

Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities

Most likely.

What history tells us

Yet Canada’s great linguistic ambition on these sovereign Aboriginal lands has always been the elimination of the French fact. Seeded by “Radical Jack”, John George Lambton, the Earl of Durham, an aristocrat and imperialist, considered my French-Canadian ancestors as “a people without literature and without history”.

The unification of Lower Canada and Upper Canada in 1840 as a single colony, Durham believed, would inevitably lead to the assimilation of French Canadians into a Lower Canada (now Quebec) dominated by the Anglophone majority in Upper Canada (now Ontario).

“Any race other than the English race appears there in a state of inferiority. It is to extricate them from this inferiority that I desire to give the Canadians our English character,” he said condescendingly in 1839.

We are the heirs of Durham⁠4. Just like our governments.

French is at an inflection point. We need fury and fire. Solidarity and strategy. From the yule.

We demand that our governments meet remedial targets that will increase Francophone immigration to our communities and immediately correct the gross injustice of the Franco-African student visa issue across Francophone Canada. And while we demand the urgent delivery of a Official Languages ​​Act robust and revitalized, we must also ask ourselves how our government institutions can show the example and the promise of what Canada could be as a welcoming land.

Francophones in Canada are not yet a people of myth and folklore. We remain fierce, proud and outspoken.

We haven’t said our last word yet.

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