As the Franco-Ontarian flag is hoisted in a new location, calls multiply to protect French identity
SUDBURY – The Franco-Ontarian flag has a new permanent home in Greater Sudbury, and it was hoisted high Thursday by the mayor at the AY Jackson Lookout in Onaping Falls.
“Council continues to support the issues that enrich our Francophone community,” said Mayor Brian Bigger in his speech.
It was a quiet little affair with only a handful of people invited to attend.
Joanne Gervais, from the Association Canadienne-Française de l’Ontario du Grand Sudbury, was in attendance. For her and thousands of others in the city, it was a moment of pride.
“Ontarians or Sudburians accept that this is an official flag,” said Gervais. “People understand that it is a flag representing the people here.”
Flying the French flag was once a hot topic at Tom Davies Square. He was not raised at City Hall until Mayor John Rodriguez – who served from 2006 to 2010 – and has flown there ever since.
In the last census, 26 percent of the city identified French as their mother tongue while about 40 percent 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 – such as the cuts to Laurentian University, the update of the Official Languages Act – Gervais is very grateful for what is being done to protect the language.
“If we don’t work to protect our communities, they won’t just be protected because we have a law that dates back to 1969,” she told CTV News.
Serge Dupuis is a historian at Laval University but considers Sudbury as his homeland. He recently wrote a book entitled “Sudbury’s Francophones: A Brief History”, in collaboration with ACFO.
He was happy to hear the news of another new permanent home for the flag.
“So having this symbol I think is important for francophones to gain self-confidence and for them to be visible in the public space,” said Dupuis.
He is not surprised by the recent wave of protection of French identity.
“In the old days, all immigrants, wherever they came from, adopted English when they came to Ontario. said Dupuis.
The recent cuts to Laurentian University have angered many in the community, with some calling it an attack on the French language and education in the region.
They are now supporting the efforts of the University of Sudbury to become a francophone institution.