The government of Québec is proposing the celebration of an annual Francophonie Day as part of a three-year plan to reinforce French across the country. The province’s Treasury Board chair, Sonia LeBel, said she is suggesting that March 22 be designated as Francophonie Day at the National Assembly, creating the opportunity for Quebecers to learn about other Francophone communities.
The proposal was part of an 80-point plan unveiled at a news conference last month where she outlined the role Québec could play in supporting other French-speaking communities. “We are a minority in Canada. I think we have a responsibility to get to know each other better, to support each other better,” said LeBel, while claiming that supporting French speakers would not diminish English communities but would serve as a reminder that there are two official languages. The government also pledged an additional CAN$8 million in funding over three years toward the promotion of the French language across Canada, making a total of CAN$24.5 million.
There are more than ten million Francophones in Canada, of whom 2.7 million live outside of Québec. On the International Day of La Francophonie (March 20), Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau issued the following statement:
“Today, on the 35th International Day of La Francophonie, we join Francophones and Francophiles in Canada and around the world in celebrating the richness of the French language—a cornerstone of our country’s history, identity, and heritage. This day also invites us to highlight the diversity of Francophone cultures and communities around the world.
“French is one of Canada’s two official languages—and the first official language of nearly a quarter of Canadians. French-speaking communities across the country are at the heart of our history and, through their many contributions, they continue to make Canada a more inclusive, prosperous, and vibrant country.
“Through the French language, our country maintains strong ties with Francophone communities around the world. As an active member of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Canada works closely with its Francophone partners all over the world to promote the French language and the diversity of Francophone cultures, including in the digital sphere. Together, we also work to protect our shared values of democracy, peace, human rights, and solidarity.
“The government of Canada recognizes the importance of promoting French and strengthening the vitality of Francophone communities across the country. That is why, this month, we introduced an enhanced bill to ensure the substantive equality of status of English and French in Canada. This vision of our linguistic duality and our bilingualism, which includes setting targets for Francophone immigration outside Québec, is part of our commitment to modernize the Official Languages Act.
“We will continue to work to modernize Canada’s linguistic regime, to adapt it to today’s realities, and to establish a new linguistic balance in the country. Our proposal to strengthen the act is an important step in our efforts to help protect the French language, promote our two official languages, and revitalize minority communities and bilingualism across the country.
“This year’s International Day of La Francophonie is also an opportunity for us to express our support and solidarity with Ukraine, which has OIF observer status, as its people try to secure their future in the face of Russia’s unjustifiable invasion of their territory.
“On behalf of the government of Canada, I wish all Francophones and Francophiles in Canada and around the world a happy International Day of La Francophonie. I encourage you to learn more about Canada and La Francophonie, to share the hashtags #Francophoniedelavenir and #mon20mars on social media, and to take part in activities in your community to celebrate this important day.”
The University of Ottawa marked the day by announcing that it will be investing $5 million into the Francophonie on campus over the next five years to fund the hiring of new French-speaking professors and the development of new programs in French. The investment is being made to “provide an exceptional learning environment for Francophone students.”