Almost 300 million people on this planet think, speak and live in French.
While Canada turns 150 this year, the French language has been evolving and spreading for roughly 1,500 years. It has been a language of diplomacy, of the arts and of philosophy.
Canada would not be Canada without its 10 million French speakers, each carrying a piece of this rich heritage forward in this land of opportunity and each tying us to this global community — the Francophonie.
And so on this day, every year, we celebrate International Francophonie Day — and we celebrate Canada’s francophone culture.
The theme of the celebration this year is “J’aime, je partage !” — “I like it, I share it!”
“The International Francophonie Day is a great opportunity to celebrate and promote the French language across the country, notably through the numerous Rendez-vous de la Francophonie that are taking place from coast to coast,” Senator Claudette Tardif says.
Since Confederation, the Senate of Canada has played an irreplaceable role in both supporting communities and protecting francophone rights.
“The Senate was the real deal-breaker for the Fathers of Confederation,” Senator Claudette Tardif explains.
“Lower Canada (now Quebec) had agreed to representation by population in the House of Commons on the express condition that they would have equality in the Senate.”
Moreover, the Senate Committee on Official Languages has been a strong voice in Parliament for French Canadians.
“As a francophone from Alberta, it has been a great privilege to chair the Senate’s official languages committee,” Senator Tardif says.
“A lot of the work we’ve done has gone into helping francophone communities across the country get the services they are entitled to under the Official Languages Act.”
For instance, a 2005 report released by the committee tackled the need to do better with regard to French-language education in minority-setting communities.
“While the committee is now doubling down with an additional study focusing on British Columbia, a recent ruling by that province’s Supreme Court has echoed our findings — that educational rights of francophone students, under Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, are being violated in that province,” Senator Tardif says.
“That’s a first step in the right direction. But our committee’s work isn’t done yet. We’ll have some strong recommendations for the government on how to fix this.”
Another 2009 report looks at minority-setting communities with arts and culture as its focus.
So as to the year’s theme: the Senate clearly embraces Canada’s francophone culture. But the Senate knows about sharing too.
“Our committee has released reports on how to tie in language rights with immigration policy, how to improve bilingualism among all Canadians, as well as how to strengthen French on social media and the internet,” Senator Tardif says.
“I am honored to belong to an institution that is not only mandated to protect and promote our diverse and dynamic Francophonie, but also takes great pride in doing it."
“What we do is all about sharing. While only some brought the French language to this country, francophone culture is now something that belongs to all Canadians.”
After 150 years, Canada is the home to a vibrant, flourishing francophone population enriched by French-speaking members from around the world.