Ottawa, December 1, 2018 – The Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) is moved by the strength, unity, determination and indignation that Ontarians have displayed today. More than 14 326 people across the province took to the streets to denounce the injustice of provincial funding cuts that aim to eliminate the Université de l’Ontario français and the office of the French Language Services Commissioner. Demonstrations were also held in 9 other provinces.
As they did in the past to oppose Regulation 17 – which prohibited French education in Ontario schools – and to save the Montfort Hospital from closure, Franco-Ontarians are rising up against the provincial government’s cuts to French language services and in support of minority language rights.
“Mr. Ford, stop treating Ontario’s French-speaking citizens like they are a burden!” exclaimed Carol Jolin, president of the AFO, to a gathering of 5,000 people in front of the Human Rights Monument in Ottawa. “Real people told you that they want their Commissioner and their francophone University. Why are you not listening? You promised to maintain our French-language University during the election. Promise made, promise broken. You need to keep your promises Mr. Ford!”
Public figures, politicians, community leaders and artists spoke out in over 40 rallying locations to affirm that Canada has two official languages and that Franco-Ontarians must receive equal treatment as an official-language community. Many speakers emphasized that Ontario’s Francophones have had to fight in the past and will continue their fight today. All they ask is for their rights to be respected, their status recognized and their hard-won gains preserved.
Carol Jolin sees flagrant disrespect in the premier of Ontario’s decision to abolish two institutions that are vital to the survival of the French language in Ontario. “We cannot accept fiscal arguments and short-sightedness as excuses to deprive us of our institutions.”
Canadians everywhere are showing national solidarity with Ontario’s francophones and donations are pouring in from across the country. Currently, the AFO’s “La Résistance” movement has raised 55000$ for the campaign to preserve the Université de l’Ontario français and the office of the French Language Services Commissioner and 15370 persons have rallied to the cause by becoming members of “La Résistance.”
The Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) is the umbrella organisation and the political voice of Ontario’s Francophone community. Its mandate is to assist the Francophone community across the province in working together and to provide community representation, in particular to advocate for the rights of Ontario’s 742,000 Franco-Ontarian citizens.