Influx of newcomers brings diversity to St. Brieux
Town has French roots, but the language is rarely heard now
These days you're more likely to hear English or even Tagalog in the school hallways.
The farming community near Melfort has grown to 650 residents. Nearby, agricultural manufacturer Bourgault Industries has expanded. It now employs more than 600 people and has started recruiting employees from around the globe.
"We are bursting at the seams here," said St. Brieux school principal Ray Emde. "We do have some challenges in terms of meeting the needs of some of these new students but we are addressing that with the addition of an English as an additional language teacher."
After expanding from 162 students in 2001, to 287 students today, the school recently received provincial money to undergo renovations.
"People are very nice," said Derla, whose husband works for Bourgault. The couple and their two children moved to St. Brieux in 2009 from their home in the Phillipines.
"They're very welcoming. They're very warm."
Derla now works as an educational assistant at the school. Officials said St. Brieux and the surrounding area are now home to at least 35 other Filipino families.
"It's perfect for the kids," she said. "Even though they're roaming around, playing around, we feel very safe for them."
French 'gone by the wayside'
With the exception of core French lessons, classes at the school are all conducted in English. Some francophone families tell CBC they wish their children could attend bilingual classes, but that's not an option.
"Before, our community used to be very francophone," said 15-year old Celine Ferré. "But now, almost everyone speaks in English."
She's not alone, according to St. Brieux mayor, Leon Rheaume.
He and other community leaders say French will always be part of St. Brieux's heritage. But as young families move in from Ireland, South Africa and Australia, they say it's important to welcome them.
"The demographics are changing," said Emde. "We are becoming a multicultural community and a multicultural school."