As Franco-Ontarian flag is raised at new location, calls grow to protect the French identity
SUDBURY -- The Franco-Ontarian flag has a new permanent home in Greater Sudbury, and it was raised high on Thursday by the mayor at the AY Jackson Lookout in Onaping Falls.
"Council continues to support issues that enrich our francophone community," said Mayor Brian Bigger in his speech.
It was a small, quiet affair with only a handful of people were invited to attend.
Joanne Gervais, of the L'Association Canadienne-Francaise de l'Ontario du Grand Sudbury, was on hand. For her and thousands of others in the city, this was a proud moment.
"Ontarians or Sudburians are accepting the fact that it's an official flag," said Gervais. "People are getting that it's a flag representing the people that are from here."
Flying the francophone flag was once a heated topic at Tom Davies Square. It wasn't raised at city hall until Mayor John Rodriguez – who served from 2006-2010 -- and it has flown there ever since.
In the last census, 26 per cent of the city identified French as their mother tongue while another roughly 40 per cent considered themselves bilingual.
In Sudbury, the Franco-Ontarian flag is personal. It was created at the University of Sudbury in 1975.
And with recent activities in the news -- like the cuts at Laurentian University, the update to the Official Languages Act -- Gervais is very appreciative of what's being done to protect the language.
"If we don't work at protecting our communities, they're not just going to be protected because we have a law that's dated back in 1969," she told CTV News.
Serge Dupuis is a historian at Laval University but considers Sudbury his home. He recently wrote a book called 'Sudbury's Francophones: A Brief History,' in conjunction with L'ACFO.
He was pleased to hear the news about another new permanent home for the flag.
"So having that symbol I think is important for francophones to build confidence within themselves and for them to be visible in the public space," said Dupuis.
He's not surprised by the recent surge to protect the French identity.
"It used to be all immigrants, wherever they came from, would adopt English when they came to Ontario - now there's been this push for a small proportion to either speak French or to learn French or to be attracted from French-speaking countries," said Dupuis.
Recent cuts by Laurentian University angered many in the community, some calling it an attack on the French language and education in the region.
They're now throwing their support behind the University of Sudbury's efforts to become a francophone institution.