Francophones and Francophiles cities Network in America
This blog post is brought to you by our guest blogger Mohamed Ghaleb, who is one of my three Project Managers as well as responsible for research and monitoring. This is his summary of the conference which took place in Québec City last week.
From 29 to 31 October, Quebec City hosted its inaugural event of the Francophones and Francophiles cities Network in America to welcome representatives from various cities and organizations across Canada, the United States and the Caribbean countries. One of the objectives of this first meeting was to highlight best practices by emphasising not only on the history of Francophones, their heritage and landmarks, but to develop a tourist circuit for 33 million French speakers in America as well.
At the initiative of Quebec City, Moncton and Lafayette, in collaboration with the Centre de la francophonie des Amériques, the meeting gathered keynote speakers such as the essayist and novelist John Ralston Saul and the anthropologist Serge Bouchard. In his opening remarks, the latter passionately talked about the little-known story of Franco-Americans and the role played by a number of French explorers and founders who traveled the United States from Louisiana to California via Wisconsin and Missouri. These journeys have left indelible traces in today’s toponymy of landmarks in the United States such cities as Beaumont, Louisville and St. Louis, as well as Antoine and Boeuf rivers or the Lake Champlain.
As for Stephen J. Ortego, elected to the House of Representatives of Louisiana, he referred to the political will to reappropriate French language in Louisiana, to which he is no stranger, thanks in part to the success of immersion schools since the adoption of a law that requires school boards to create an immersion program when at least 25 parents signed a petition. Bilingual signs are also a workhorse though he acknowledged the many challenges it represents.
Finally, Ontario was the show stopper of the event which highlighted 400 years of Francophone presence in the province. Artists such as Stef Paquette, Céleste Levis and the group Swing showcased its proud Francophone heritage. The progress made by Franco-Ontarians on language rights has earned the admiration of participants from Canada, the United States, Cuba and Martinique. In short, this first network meeting was a mega-success and it promises many more to come. Congratulations to the organizers!