Toronto

La Francophonie grants observer status to Ontario

Ontario has been granted observer status by la Francophonie in a move that the global group says recognizes the role of Francophones in the province.

Premier Wynne 'delighted,' says move recognizes province's commitment to French language

Michaelle Jean, Secretary General of the International Organization of la Francophonie, speaks during the opening ceremony at the Francophonie Summit in Antananarivo, Madagascar on Saturday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Ontario has been granted observer status by la Francophonie, a move that the global organization says recognizes the role of Francophones in the province.

La Francophonie said the special status will strengthen the province's profile in the Francophone world and will lead to new opportunities for co-operation in culture, education, and economic development.

"Ontario's observer status reflects the Franco-Ontarian community's integral role in the province's past, present and future, and the government's commitment to protecting and promoting French language and identity," la Francophonie said in a news release.

Observer status means representatives of Ontario can attend all meetings of the organization, except private meetings and commission meetings, but the province will not have the right to vote.

La Francophonie represents about 220 million French speakers in countries and regions around the world. 

It granted the new status to Ontario at its summit in Antananarivo, Madagascar this weekend.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Michaelle Jean, Secretary General of the International Organization of la Francophonie, at the start of a plenary session at the Francophonie Summit in Antananarivo, Madagascar on Saturday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

More than 600,000 Francophones live in Ontario. The province is home to the largest Francophone community in Canada outside of Quebec.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she was "delighted" by the move, saying the organization "recognizes our commitment to the French language and identity, and the significant contributions of our Francophone community."

"I look forward to working with members of the organization around the world to develop new partnerships and promote common priorities," she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is "pleased" that Ontario has a new status in la Francophonie. 

"Franco-Ontarians have played an important role in the building of Canada, and we are excited by the idea of working together to promote our language, our culture and our shared values in Canada and around the world," he said.

The Ontario government said it will support the organization's efforts to promote cultural diversity, sustainable development, education and training.

The government said it will also support work to advance peace, democracy and human rights, under the leadership of la Francophonie Secretary General Michaëlle Jean, former Canadian Governor General.

Observer status also means if Ontario draws up a request, then it may submit it to what is called the organization's ministerial conference.

Ontario will also be able to participate in certain meetings of working groups and participate twice per year in a thematic meeting designated for observers.