B.C. government marks Francophone Day with more money for services

New money to improve programs in libraries, health and education targeted to growing population of French-speaking B.C. residents.

Programs in libraries, health and education targeted for growing population of French-speaking B.C. residents

Ecole Victor Brodeur students in Victoria sang Canada anthem in French at a B.C. government event to announce new funding for French-languages programs and services. (Erik Tremblay/Radio-Canada)

As it hoists the Franco-Columbian flag at the legislature to observe Francophone Day on Tuesday, the B.C. government is also raising its financial contribution to services for the province's growing population of French speakers.

The NDP government will boost its commitment to francophone programs and services by $250,000 in cash this year, according to Adrian Dix, B.C.'s health minister and minister responsible for the provinces' francophone affairs program.

Dix said the federal cash contribution of $700,000 and provincial contributions of in-kind services worth $700,000 have remained unchanged for many years.

With the growth in French immersion education and francophone immigration, he told On the Island host Gregor Craigie, historic objections to French language services in the province no longer hold sway.

 "When we're talking about services and opportunities in French we're really talking about investing in young people, in investing in the future, not the past," he said.

Currently, more than 70,000 francophones and 300,000 French-speaking people live in British Columbia.

B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix said younger generations of B.C. residents no longer question the value of providing bilingual services in this province. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Much of the new money will be spent on French-language library services, as well as education and health care, where accuracy of the information provided is particularly important.

Dix said that while half of his own constituency members in Vancouver-Kingsway speak a variety of languages other than English at home, francophone services are an important priority of the federal and provincial government.

A Statistics Canada report from 2016 says 965 people in Vancouver-Kingsway listed French as their mother tongue; 6,260 said they speak both official languages. In comparison, 30,215 reported speaking a Chinese language, predominantly Cantonese. 

"We're a bilingual country, it's a huge advantage for us economically, socially and culturally, and our history" Dix said.

Service users include new parents, homeless

"Young people aren't confused about the elements of this debate. They're just becoming more bilingual."

Examples of funded programs from the most recent annual report for the francophone affairs program, for the year 2016-2017, included:

  • Distribution of 142 welcome packages for expecting parents with useful information in French about pregnancy and newborn care.
  •  A total of 2,720 social services interventions in French (compared to 792 requests in 2015-2016).They included 987 interactions to help families and 192 homeless individuals.
  • A web-friendly French resources map created to connect French-speaking citizens to education, daycare, health care, business and tourism services available in French in British Columbia. 

With files from CBC Radio's On the Island with Gregor Craigie.