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Reflections of a committed “Francophile”

| Francophonie

Last year, as part of our celebration of the Journée internationale de la Francophonie (in French only), the CTF posted staff profiles on social media featuring the ties various staff members have with the francophone community. This fun exercise helped us realize that we, the staff of our national teachers’ federation, are a microcosm of our diverse Canadian society. Like my colleagues, I participated in this exercise and found it clarified my own understanding of when French became a key part of my identity.

It turns out being born into an anglophone family in Halifax was not a precursor to a unilingual life. French immersion schools had not yet been established when I started elementary school, so I attended school in English, with French as a second language just a few hours each week being enough to pique my curiosity. My teenage years were marked with an experience that brought to life the value of bilingualism in Canada. I was fortunate to obtain a bursary to participate in a “summer immersion” program in beautiful Québec City. I fell in love – with the city and the language! And this immersion experience resulted in the French language becoming an important part of who I am. Over the years, the term « Francophile » has been used to describe me and others who, like me, have embraced bilingualism as an essential Canadian value.

When I began in the position of Secretary General last year, CTF’s Services to Francophones was undertaking important research. Teachers in a Francophone Minority Setting: Exploring Themes1 revisits the same questions asked of teachers in French language schools ten years ago2. The new research reconfirms the primary challenges for teachers to be the paucity of French language teaching resources and the particular challenge of promoting the use of French in primarily anglophone contexts. Over the course of the past decade, another challenge has emerged – overly heavy teaching workloads coupled with increasingly diverse student needs3.

This research deepened my appreciation of the essential role CTF’s Services to Francophones plays supporting French education across Canada. We are proud of our contributions and, moreover, we are grateful to our network of French language liaison officers « from coast to coast to coast4 » whose essential contributions over the years, have ensured the voice of francophone teachers was reflected in our work as well as in our partners’ initiatives.

I am privileged to live in Ottawa, a city where French and English are part of daily life. I am also fortunate to occupy a role that requires regular use of both French and English in an organization that advocates for social justice and holds bilingualism as a core value. My two children have attended French school since kindergarten and express themselves with the same ease as their francophone friends, making me very proud (even when they correct my French). As a family, we are very conscious of the need to incorporate French culture (and plenty of French books) into our leisure activities; we have seen, first hand, that living in a bilingual city does not mean bilingualism comes easily. Living in French requires constant effort. Yet, my children are living proof that one can become a Francophone as they are very comfortable with who they are and how they express themselves.

Children who attend French language schools in Canada are one hope for greater social justice across linguistic communities. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation plays an important role in ensuring they receive the best possible education and we embrace this mandate with the same dynamism and energy typical of the teacher members from each CTF Member organization.

I wish you all a wonderful Journée internationale de la Francophonie!

1 CHIASSON, Maurice and Louise GRATTON. Teachers in a Francophone Minority Setting: Exploring Themes, Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 2014.
2 Teachers and the Challenge of Teaching in Francophone Minority Settings, Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 2004.
3 CHIASSON, Maurice and Louise GRATTON. Teachers in a Francophone Minority Setting: Exploring Themes, Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 2014, p. 21.
4 This is the theme of the 2016 Annual Francophone Symposium which was held in Vancouver from February 17 to 19.

On celebrating our 100<sup>th</sup> anniversary in 2020