At a time where divisive and protectionist ideologies dominate conversations, International Francophonie Day strives to create a space of solidarity. It is one that is based on the principles of humanity, democracy, and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity for all.
In Ontario, the francophonie culture has had a rich history. It celebrated 400 years of French presence in 2015 by commemorating Samuel de Champlain’s exploration of Ontario. With the help of the Wendat (Huron) and Anishinaabe, his First Nations guides and allies, the land that is known as present-day Ontario served as the longest, most extensive and westernmost point of his travels.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says this day takes on special meaning this year because of the current political climate.
“The Ford government’s recent attack on French language services in Ontario, including scrapping plans to create a new francophone university, is alarming,” said Thomas. “Unity is our strength when fighting Ford’s destructive agenda whether it’s French language services or programs for children with autism.”
“There is a growing need amongst Francophones in Ontario to access services, be trained in their first language, and to come out of an institution knowing the vocabulary that is necessary in Canada’s official languages,” added Hervé Cavanagh, Chair of OPSEU’s Provincial Francophone Committee.
March 20 was designated International Francophonie Day because it marked the signing of the Niamey Convention in Niger. It was on this date back in 1970 that the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique (ACCT) was established and served as a precursor to the IOF. At the time of its creation, the ACCT was tasked with the promotion of French language and culture throughout the world.
Since 2010, March 20 has been declared as United Nations French Language Day and celebrated in conjunction with International Francophonie Day. It marked the 40th year since the founding of the IOF. Established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it was a way to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity. It was also a way to promote the equal use of six official working languages throughout the United Nations. They are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
Canada’s involvement in La Francophonie is a reflection of not only its linguistic duality but also its history; one that is as rich and diverse as the people who call it home today. La Francophonie gives Canadians more opportunities at the international level and also provides greater appreciation to the unique contribution Canada provides to the development and evolution of La Francophonie.
For more information: