With much of my time occupied by the annual report, which will be published this spring, and by a number of other matters, I’ve been neglecting this blog somewhat, except for my series of posts on justice – which is not yet finished!
However, I simply must extend congratulations to a few members of the Francophone community who have earned special recognition in recent weeks.
I was very pleased to hear that Mariette Carrier-Fraser was named Le Droit/Radio-Canada personality of the year for 2015. It is a richly deserved honour. Ms. Carrier-Fraser has been defending Francophone rights in Ontario with energy and conviction for 40 years. Her accomplishments are legion. A former assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of Education, she played a key role in the establishment of 12 French-language school boards across Ontario and in the founding of Collège Boréal. She was also, from 2006 to 2010, the very first president of the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario. And she is currently very active in the health sector, serving as president of the French Language Health Services Advisory Council. She’s obviously never heard of retirement!
I’d also like to congratulate Jean-Marc Lalonde, a recipient of the Order of Canada. Mr. Lalonde was responsible for the legislative recognition of the Franco-Ontarian flag when he was an MPP. And of course, it would be impolitic not to mention the fact that he played a big part in creating the position of French Language Services Commissioner. In other words, it’s largely due to his commitment to better delivery of French-language services for the province’s Francophones that the Commissioner’s Office came to be!
Pierre Foucher too received a prestigious award: the Ordre de la Pléiade. I’m delighted that his contribution to promoting the Francophonie is being recognized. For many years, Mr. Foucher, a professor who specializes in language rights, has been publishing writings that advance our thinking about the role of the French language and, in so doing, broaden our horizons. Throughout his career, he has made good use of the forums available to him, both here and abroad, to further the cause of the French language.
Pierre Riopel, president of Collège Boréal, has announced his plans to retire next September. I wish him much happiness in this new phase of his life. Throughout his long career, Mr. Riopel made a huge contribution to French-language education across the province. More recently, his outstanding work included increasing the number of programs and services available to Francophone students.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t salute the exceptional engagement of Senator Maria Chaput, who is also retiring. I hope she will take whatever time and respite she needs to look after her health. Although she is in her home province of Manitoba most of the time, Ms. Chaput was interested in the entire Canadian Francophonie. During my first few years in the Commissioner’s Office, I had the pleasure of working with her, since she wanted to know more about the IDF, the new Inclusive Definition of Francophone adopted by the Ontario government in 2009. In the Senator’s view, the definition of a Francophone no longer matches the Canadian reality. In fact, she introduced her fourth bill to amend Part IV of the Official Languages Act the day before she announced her resignation!
Like many others, these five people, each in his or her own way, have helped enhance the vitality of French. While our beautiful language is still a minority language in our province and in Canada, they’ve made it more audible. And the community is more visible as a result. For that I thank them.