It's Rendez-vous time encore
Francophone celebration commences with flag raising
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 06:00 am
The scene was warm despite the overcast coolness in Morinville last Friday. A gathering of spirited francophones, young and old alike, came together to sing songs and raise a blue, white and pink flag to the heights of town hall, otherwise known as St. Germain Place.
The annual phenomenon is called the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, a tradition now in the middle of its second decade of celebration in Canada. The full extent of it comes between March 8 and 24, a two-week celebration of French Canadian language, culture and heritage. The first Friday of this month, however, is the time when proud French-speaking people come together to raise the flag, and thus, raise their collective profile in their villages, towns and cities.
“I think it’s absolutely critical,” began André Noël of L’Association de tous les Francophones de l’Alberta (ACFA). He was there representing the Centralta region of the province, which includes Morinville, Legal and St. Albert.
“It means a lot. For a number of years, there might have been some people who were embarrassed [to admit] ‘I’m French’ or ‘I’m francophone’. You’re so immersed in an English environment without that support of the school system. Now there must be 30, 40 francophone schools and almost every school has some sort of immersion program.”
French, he continued, is a living language and a vital one at that.
“It’s not just something you learn in class.”
Included in the 25 other communities that participated in the flag raising and are set to join in on the Rendez-vous were Calgary, Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Beaumont, Jasper and Grande Prairie. Three years ago, there were only 17 communities holding celebrations for National French Canadian Heritage Week.
Francophone pride and population are both on the rise, Noël said.
“There’s a recognition that they have something that is a bit special. They can speak two languages!” he said.
There are close to 400,000 French-speaking women, men and children in Alberta alone, according to data from Statistics Canada. That’s the third highest francophone population in the country, next to the six million in Québec and 1.3 million in Ontario.
Minister of Culture Heather Klimchuk expressed her sentiment that French-speaking Albertans also add a lot of value and enrichment to the whole of the province.
“Alberta’s growing francophone communities bring such an energy to our culture,” she said in a prepared statement. “Our diversity and the connections it creates continue to enrich our province, making it both strong and vibrant.”
The flag, known as le drapeau franco-albertain, shows a fleur-de-lis and a wild rose in balance. It has become the centrepiece of ACFA’s Rendez-vous campaign in this province and was prominently displayed, not just on the flagpole but also in the hands of everyone in attendance. The schoolchildren, visiting from École Notre Dame, even had temporary tattoo drapeaux on their cheeks.
International Francophonie Day comes on March 20, right in the middle of the two-week celebration.
“There’s so much going on in March. It’s a great opportunity to get to know and celebrate Alberta’s vibrant French culture and our well-known joie de vivre,” added Dolorèse Nolette, ACFA president.
The Rendez-vous also features a number of special events across the province. A full listing of these events can be found online at culture.alberta.ca.
More information can be found at www.acfa.ab.ca.