Chapter 1

An Organizational Story Franco-Ontarians’ natural allies

As the 2011 Census data demonstrate, Ontario’s Francophonie is continually being enriched by a growing number of Francophone newcomers and exogamous couples. As a result, it is now virtually impossible to draw a clear line between “Francophone” and “Francophile”. More often than not, Francophones and Francophiles are in fact the same people, culturally intertwined.

With respect to how this term is used in this report, a Francophile is a person who is “interested in French and in Canada’s French-speaking communities. Often [Francophiles] or their children have learned to speak French and to enjoy French-language cultural products.”6

Now more than ever, it makes sense for Francophones and Francophiles to work together rather than in silos. In cases where they unfortunately do not see eye to eye, it is often because Francophones fail to understand Francophiles’ reality — for example, with regard to French as a Second Language (FSL) programs — and Francophiles fail to understand Francophones’ reality.

Needless to say, Francophiles, like Francophones, have a student retention problem, which, in their case too, usually arises during the course of secondary school. For Francophiles, the existence of a French-language postsecondary education continuum is just as important as it is for Francophones, even if it is only to ensure that their students actually do have options when they reach the end of the FSL program.

In these circumstances, with nearly 1 million students in FSL programs in Ontario schools and more than 155,000 of them enrolled in French immersion programs,7 it is imperative that Franco-Ontarian educational institutions make Francophiles their partners. In fact, in 2012-2013, Canadian Parents for French (Ontario), the provincial branch of a national network dedicated to creating and promoting FSL learning opportunities for young Canadians and Ontarians, signed separate agreements with Collège Boréal and Groupe Média TFO, while the national network of Canadian Parents for French concluded an agreement with La Cité collégiale. The Commissioner is delighted with these promising avenues for the future.

Photo 1 (CPF Ontario et Collège Boréal)

Mary Cruden, President of Canadian Parents for French (Ontario) and Denis Hibert-Dutrisac, President of CollègeBoréal.

Photo 2 (CPF Ontario et TFO)

Mary Cruden, President of Canadian Parents for French (Ontario) signed a partnership agreement with GroupeMédia TFO on October 21, 2012.

Photo 3 (CPF et La Cité collégiale)

Jordan Wright, Vice President of Canadian Parents for French, and Lise Bourgeois, President of La Cité collégiale.

That said, there is a persistent obstacle, which the Commissioner referred to previously in his No access, no future report:8 the Ontario government does not collect data on the educational pathways followed by immersion students, students from exogamous families, or allophones and Francophiles, which makes it difficult to determine how many students pursue a postsecondary education in French.

Ontario’s Francophiles also have to overcome a variety of other challenges throughout their education. Here are just a few of them: parents may be confused by the differences between the types of French as a Second Language programs (Core French, Extended French and French Immersion) and have difficulty grasping the distinctions between these optional programs; school boards do not always provide sufficient funding to meet the growing demand for these programs (although English-language school boards all receive funding under the Grants for Student Needs and all offer FSL programs);9 and Francophiles are occasionally perceived as special-interest groups. In addition, some school boards may choose to implement a minimum enrolment threshold for optional FSL programs, which can be challenging to meet in some localities.

Current Ministry of Education policy requires that each elementary student accumulate at least 600 hours of FSL instruction by the end of Grade 8. School boards have to plan their FSL programs so that students meet this requirement. In addition to core French, school boards have the option of offering extended French, and French immersion programs. These programs are funded at a higher per-pupil level than core French programs. If an FSL extended or immersion program becomes “too” popular in a particular region, the students may be subjected to restrictive measures that lead to admission quotas or lotteries or a reduction in the number of hours spent learning French.

In other words, Francophiles face a twofold challenge: being recognized as partners of Francophone communities, and finding their rightful place within the majority society. This situation must be particularly trying in Ontario, since the province ranks ninth among the 13 Canadian provinces and territories with regard to the student participation rate in French immersion programs.10

Even though French-language boards have policies governing the admission of children whose parents do not have French-language education rights, FSL programs are, in fact, the only viable option for many Francophile families whose children are not rights-holders but who aspire to have their children take part in the expansion of the Francophonie in Ontario. To that end, these families and the organizations that represent them must at least be able to count on the inclusive nature and openness of Francophone communities.

It is in this spirit that the Commissioner met on several occasions with the member organizations of the Réseau français langue seconde, including French for the Future and Canadian Parents for French. The Commissioner encourages Franco-Ontarians to do likewise by going outside their traditional comfort zone and working closely with their natural allies. After all, the future of French Ontario must be in the direction of success, because failure is not an option. In today’s world, where the prevalence of multiple identities should no longer be something to fear, Francophones and Francophiles have to work together to ensure the survival of the French language in Ontario.

6For more information: (page consulted in May 2013).

7Ontario School Information System (OnSIS) data, 2010-2011. Available online: (page consulted in May 2013).

8Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, The State of French-Language Postsecondary Education in Central-Southwestern Ontario: No access, no future, Investigation Report, Toronto, 2012.

9Anthony Morgan, “How French Immersion Got Me Out of the ‘Hood”, The Huffington Post, February 6, 2013.

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