Francophones across the province have spoken out against the government’s latest cuts
In reaction to a round of cuts to Francophone commitments by the provincial government, protests were held in Ottawa on Dec. 1 at the Monument to Human Rights.
The protest was one of many across the province, in the wake of a series of cuts by the Ford government to Franco-Ontarian institutions that the party claims are necessary for austerity. Among them are the cancellation of a Toronto-area French university, the defunding of a grant for a Francophone theatre in Ottawa, and the removal of the position of French commissioner in Ford’s cabinet.
Although the government has since reinstated the French language commissioner position, the Francophone community has continued to put pressure on the Conservatives.
Claude Midet, a Francophone protestor at Ottawa’s demonstration stated in French “Ford says this is about austerity, but the English theatres are still running—this is an attack against us,” in reference to the defunding of Ottawa French theatre La Nouvelle Scène. “French education is not just in the classroom, it is about giving kids a life where they can use their native tongue every day.”
Although complaints varied, the protest primarily focused on the cancellation of a planned French-language university and the chronic under-availability of French education.
“When the government cuts services in the South just because we are not as common there, it sends a message that the province is not all for us. Our kids want to work in Toronto because there is so much opportunity, but they can’t get an education there and they can’t live there” said protestor James Doucet.
The protest has also come from inside the Legislative Assembly, with MPP Amanda Simard leaving the Conservative caucus over what she claims is a targeted attack on Francophones.
“The decisions made last week concerning the office of the commissioner and the Franco-Ontarian University disappoint me greatly,” she stated in a French post on her official Facebook page. “To my more than 600,000 fellow Franco-Ontarians, you may not know me yet, but know that I am with you … You have an ally in me, and I will never let you down.”
In a time of packed French-immersion schools, and a limited budget for expansion, the French university was seen by many Francophones as an opportunity to expand education to their underserviced south-western communities—a right guaranteed to them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Ontario’s educational mandate.
“We are not asking for extra privileges, we are asking for what we are promised and what we are owed,” said Brigitte Plante in French. “Without a new French university there are just not enough spots for all of us, and that means we lose out on new French academics and teachers—it is a cycle of poor educational opportunity”.
Ford’s government released a statement on Monday Nov. 26 reiterating their support for Ontario’s French culture but have made no plans to reverse the cuts.