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Bilingualism and Biculturalism

After more than a century of dominance in the 1800s, the French language received its first official upset in 1892.

By the time Alberta was made a province in 1905 use of French in government, the courts and schools was illegal. Non-Francophone Roman Catholics had recently settled in Alberta in growing numbers. With no real legislative support, the French communities feared being swallowed up by an English majority. By the 1960s, French organizations regarded exclusive French-language education as the key to the preservation of their culture. The next decades were marked by some progress, and some controversy.



During this turbulent period, Franco-Albertans could not escape the unrest that surrounded the Quiet Revolution and the rise of separatism in Québec in the 1960s and 1970s.

Alberta Francophone communities were steadily shrinking in the second-half of the 20th century. When the separatist Parti Quebecois was elected in Québec in 1976, Franco-Albertans faced a new and apparent threat to their survival.

Many Franco-Albertans opposed the separatist movement a spoke out in favour of a united Canada. Pierre Trudeau had an enormous impact on Franco-Albertans. In 1982 the Canadian Charter, solidified protection of language rights in Canada.

Special factors allowed Franco-Albertans to retain their language and culture during the 1970s and 1980.

The 1990 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada determined that the Alberta provincial government had violated the rights of its French minority population by declining to promote all-French schooling. Franco-Albertans still seek recognition as a distinct community as a founding nation.

Today, French can be heard on the radio, on television, and read in widely distributed French language publications in Alberta. However, despite its official language designation, French will only be found in federal government offices or in agencies, hospitals, schools and clinics that have French speakers on staff.

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