Coming back from the AFO’s congress
After an excellent weekend at the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) congress, a very emotional conference, I’d like to provide a brief summary of my favourite moments and the successes of the weekend.
The first thing I’d like to mention is the departure of Denis Vaillancourt as AFO president. In his two terms, totalling six years, Mr. Vaillancourt accomplished a great deal for the community. A very frequent participant in the many francophone events, he was dedicated and highly engaged in issues of importance to the AFO, and he leaves an admirable legacy. There is no doubt that he will continue to be involved in various organizations and local causes. And of course there were the unforgettable celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Francophones’ arrival in Ontario! He also leaves behind him a number of ongoing issues, which I’m confident his successor will deal with effectively. Thank you for the credibility you lent to Francophones and Francophiles, for your sound judgement on many issues, for the pertinence of your many actions, for your respectfulness, for your sustained and very personal commitment, for your listening skills, for your confidence and for your many words of advice. Have a happy “retirement” and, for the 400th time, thank you, Denis!
Carol Jolin, Denis Vaillancourt’s successor, is now president of the AFO. He too is heavily involved in the community, and he’s already taking on issues that are important to AFO members. With his background in education in several regions, and his recent term as president of the AEFO, Mr. Jolin is familiar with the many concerns of the province’s Francophones and Francophiles. He’s already indicated a few priorities for this new term:
- official bilingualism of the City of Ottawa;
- a French-language university in Central-Southwestern Ontario;
- following up with senior officials about implementing the recommendations in my annual report, FLSA 2.0, to update the French Language Services Act.
I’m confident that Mr. Jolin will be an excellent spokesperson for the community and for AFO members. I look forward to working with you, particularly on the proposals for revising the French Language Services Act.
I also want to take the opportunity to congratulate all the winners and finalists of the recognition awards presented during Saturday’s awards gala.
Congratulations to Dominic Giroux for receiving the “pillar of the Francophonie” award. He won the award for his involvement over more than 25 years in the institutional, governmental and community sectors of French Ontario. He’s currently President of Laurentian University, which under his leadership became the first bilingual university to receive partial designation under the French Language Services Act.
Congratulations to the Association des francophones du Nord-Ouest de l’Ontario (AFNOO) on winning the Franco-Ontarian horizon award for publishing and distributing the magazine Le Relais. For the last 30 years, Le Relais, the only French-language magazine distributed free of charge in Northwestern Ontario, has kept the community informed and promoted the region’s vitality, creating synergies and reinforcing the sense of unity in Francophone groups.
Lastly, congratulations to Jean-Claude Legault on receiving the Florent Lalonde award. He won the award for his significant engagement in the entire community. He’s a passionate, dedicated volunteer known for his leadership and involvement, particularly with CFORD, Réseau Ontario, Contact Ontarois, the Knights of Columbus and the Clarington project, in which he assists adults with disabilities.
The congress ended with a stirring tribute to our friend Paul Demers, who passed away Saturday afternoon. That was followed by the AFO’s AGM, which elected the new board of directors. Congratulations to the new board members. We wish you a pleasant term!
It was a weekend full of worthwhile discussions, useful networking activities and, of course, decisions on the focus of the term of Mr. Jolin and his team. As observers, we would be remiss if we failed to mention the significant involvement of the community in this annual congress. Nearly 250 got together to discuss issues, share experiences and talk about best practices. All this demonstrates that Francophones and Francophiles are very concerned about the issues of the day and want to make sure their voices are heard.
We want to continue working with the members of the Legislature to ensure that the FLSA is revised. In my report, I made many recommendations to the government regarding FLSA 2.0; while the current act is useful for obtaining service in French, it has become outdated. In 30 years, many things and many circumstances have changed! All that needs to be done is to reflect these many changes in a revised French Language Services Act. The key recommendations are as follows: provide rules regarding the use of social media, make the province a single designated area, and include active offer.
We’re very happy to have attended this major conference and had an opportunity to take the pulse of the association and community sector. We all have our mandates and our roles, and we have to take care to respect them. It’s my job to put forward ideas, and it’s up to the community to support them if it considers them worthwhile. But that doesn’t mean working in isolation; it means helping one another in the many areas of activity to ensure that Francophones and Francophiles have access to their services in French and continue to demand service in French!