It’s my special pleasure to send warm greetings to all our francophone and francophile members on this sixth Franco-Ontarian Day.
It was on September 25, 1975, that the Franco-Ontarian flag was raised for the first time. So in addition to celebrating Franco-Ontarians, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of their distinctive banner, which proudly flies outside OPSEU head office.
But we underscore a third important anniversary this year: the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Samuel de Champlain in Ontario. In other words, we mark four centuries of the presence of francophones in Ontario, who have been instrumental in creating a just and prosperous province.
With five per cent of Ontario’s population, Franco-Ontarians represent the largest francophone presence outside Quebec. In some parts of the province, francophones represent the majority of the local population, and French is heard on the street, in shops, in cultural centres and in faith communities.
It’s also heard in OPSEU-represented workplaces across the province: from Windsor to Ottawa to Hearst. So when I was first elected President in 2007, one of my priorities was making our francophone members feel more at home in OPSEU. For example, most of our communications are printed in both official languages, while we continue to add to our bilingual staff.
In June, I was privileged to open the first-ever Francophone Conference in Ottawa. Our Provincial Francophone Committee used the occasion to equip members with the tools to assert their rights as francophones. The event also provided an opportunity to highlight OPSEU’s many achievements in providing French-language services, and to educate members on how to access them.
I’m extremely proud of our francophone members. They’ve overcome many significant obstacles over hundreds of years to ensure that their language and culture survived – and thrived – and that they and their families could live and work and receive services in French.
Francophones continue to enrich our union, our communities, our province and our country. I’m confident they’ll be as important a part of our province’s future as they’ve been of its past.
Joyeuse fête à tous nos membres franco-ontariens et franco-ontariennes!
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union