Sudbury

Sudburians celebrate Francophone roots today with flag-raisings

Joanne Gervais has a close connection to the green and white Franco-Ontarian flag that’s adorned with both a fleur-de-lys and a trillium. Her brother, Gaetan, co-created it back in 1975.

More than one-third of people who live in Greater Sudbury know both French, English

Joanne Gervais, left, and Fiston Issa, who both work at the Sudbury chapter of L'Association Canadienne-Française de l'Ontario, hold up the Franco-Ontarian flag that hangs outside their office. September 25th has been recognized as Franco-Ontarian Day by the province every year since 2010. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

Joanne Gervais has a close connection to the green and white Franco-Ontarian flag that's adorned with both a fleur-de-lys and a trillium.

Her brother, Gaetan, co-created it back in 1975.

"It's really a question of belonging, to me," said Joanne, who is currently the executive director of the Sudbury chapter of L'Association Canadienne-Française de l'Ontario.

"It's a symbol we can all rally around. It's not political, it's not divisive. It just says exactly what it is: It talks about our winters, about our summers, it talks about being Francophone and being from Ontario. It's not about putting down another community. It's just being proud to be from here."

The flag turns 43 on Tuesday but the province didn't officially begin recognizing September 25th as Franco-Ontarian Day until 2010.

Michel Dupuis, who co-created the flag along with Gaetan Gervais, died earlier this year.

French is the first language for over twenty-six per cent of Greater Sudbury's population, while more than one-third of residents in the city know both English and French.

Province-wide, more than 600,000 Ontarians consider French their primary tongue.

'People should be proud'

Blaise Quenneville moved to Sudbury to study in French at Collège Boréal. He's from the small but well-entrenched francophone community in Windsor.

Blaise Quenneville is a Francophone from Windsor, and now studies in French at Collège Boréal in Sudbury. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

Quenneville described what the day means to him.

"Just having pride in the culture and what comes from it, having pride in the language and being able to fight for one's rights to be able to have a Francophone community, French rights within the province, having access to French education, things like that," explained Quenneville.

He said it's important to him to live in Sudbury, a city known as a hub for Ontario's French heritage and culture.

"It really adds a sense of pride just being able to move from one community where it wasn't as prevalent to a larger one where it is bigger, and just having a sense of pride and community that you're among other Franco-Ontarians," added Quenneville.

Brice Ngouaka moved to Canada from the Congo about 10 years ago, and has lived in Sudbury since 2015.

He also said he's thankful to live in a community with a strong Francophone presence.

"I always say yes, I'm a Franco-Ontarian because I live in Ontario," said Ngouaka.

Brice Ngouaka, who is originally from the Congo, says he now considers himself a Franco-Ontarian, as well. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

But he lamented that he hears mostly English when he's out and about, even when he's among Francophones.

"When someone hears you speaking French, sometimes the other person gets excited to ask you, 'Parlez vous français?' And you can start the conversation in French," offered Ngouaka.

"We are happy to celebrate [Franco-Ontarian Day] today, but we are few in an environment where many people speak English, even in households. I don't know why. People should be proud of speaking French."

A flag-raising ceremony is planned at 11:00 a.m. at the University of Sudbury, where the emblem first flew 43 years ago.

More than 130 other flag-raisings are scheduled across Ontario on Tuesday morning to mark the occasion.

About the Author

Benjamin Aubé is a journalist based out of Sudbury. If you have a story you'd like to share, email him at benjamin.aube@cbc.ca

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