Published February 13, 2019
TORONTO – Representatives from dozens of Francophone countries joined their voices to adopt a resolution denouncing the Ford government’s cuts to French language services. The President of the Parliament of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, currently visiting Ontario, is leading the charge: Doug Ford’s position on Francophones should quickly do a 180-turn, he said.
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« Francophones are an asset, not a cost or an inconvenience. Instead of trying to reduce their number, the focus should be on gaining from the French presence and pushing bilingualism forward,” said Philippe Courard, President of the Parliament of French Community of Belgium.
Mr. Courard was in Ontario this week at the head of a mission of Belgian elected officials. “Francophones and Anglophones have to live together in balance,” he added, commenting the situation in Ontario. His point of view is informed by the political history of Belgium, which has seen many linguistic crises between the Dutch-speaking Flemish and the French-speaking Walloons.
Philippe Courard, President of the Parliament of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.
Courtesy : Isopix/Frederic Sierakowski. Parliament of the Federation of Wallonia-Brussels.
Courard recently welcomed dozens of elected officials from many countries who came to attend a meeting of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie in Brussels. These politicians from around the world adopted a motion that firmly condemns Doug Ford’s cuts to Francophone services and supports the Francophone opposition to these measures.
Excerpt from the motion of the Assemblée parlementaire de la francophonie (our translation):
The Office of Parliamentary Assembly RECOGNIZES the importance of protecting and preserving the rights of the Franco-Ontarian community and the historic struggles it has waged to foster its development, reinforce its vitality and ensure its survival and the survival of Canada’s Francophone community; DENOUNCES any action that adversely affects the rights and gains of a Francophone minority community; and AFFIRMS its solidarity and support to Franco-Ontarians in their struggle to protect their language and culture.
The eyes of the French-speaking world are on Ontario, says Philippe Courard. The international Francophone community could not stay silent in the face of these moves, he said, and hopes that this declaration will carry weight. “We are trying to make Ontario realize that French is an opportunity. Openness to others cannot mean rejecting a language and a culture. Having a language that can build relationships with so many other countries is a privilege. To not reap its benefits would be a mistake. Ontario should use it like a force,” insists Courard.
At the last meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie, Doug Ford’s cuts to Francophone services were denounced in a joint statement. Courtesy: Isopix/Frederic Sierakowski. Parliament of the Federation of Wallonia-Brussels.
Knowing that Doug Ford’s government is focused on economic development, Courard shared his thoughts on the development of French in Ontario. “For those who see only the economic picture, I would say that having a shared language is vital to trade, to buying and selling. If Ontario wants to become less dependent on the United States, there are possibilities to be explored in Europe and Africa, where French is a key language for commerce,” he said.
French is simply an extra advantage, says Courard. “It’s not a question of believing that French is better than English. Rather, it’s that no language should dictate over another language,” he added.
Belgium had a university crisis as well
On November 5, 1967, 30,000 Flemish Belgians marched in the streets of Antwerp to demand the departure of Francophone students in the university town of Leuven, situated in a Dutch-speaking area of the country. Their demand was for a unilingual Flemish region. The slogan Wallons dehors (Walloons Out) on their banners was a clear message to Francophones. It marked the country’s history forever. The bilingual university of Leuven was divided up during the year 1968 and a new Francophone university was created. It was established in a French speaking part of the country in a new town named Louvain-la-Neuve (New Leuven).
Gilles Mouyard, a Belgian politician within the visiting Francophone delegation to Ontario, draws some parallels between the two crises, but also notes differences. “In our country, the Flemish are in the North, the Walloons are in the South. Here in Ontario, there are Francophones just about everywhere. That is an important difference,” he explains.
“The Francophones had to leave Leuven and create their own university. The conflict was between linguistic communities. The Flemish were telling Francophones to go to their own area,” says Mouyard. “Our political crises have often stemmed from economic crises.”
Étienne Fortin-Gauthier is a journalist with ten years of experience. He has collaborated with many large Canadian and European media groups, including Canadian Press, the newspaper La Presse, Agence France-Presse and L’Avenir press group in Belgium. His interest for French-Canadian issues stems from his work at the Réseau francophone d’Amérique, which works closely with Francophone radio stations in minority communities. Étienne is a graduate of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs in Toronto and the joint communications and political science program at the Université de Montréal.
Source : https://onfr.tfo.org/des-elus-de-la-francophonie-mondiale-sermonnent-doug-ford/?fbclid=IwAR0LVPpnjL1zET4IWcrRA1tBVu12UF8JDjar4Qjm5ciPxODdeFWBwBv32yo