Denis Collette was named Directeur de la radio française en Alberta in August 1982 and his nomination marks the beginning of a particularly active period for CHFA. It is interesting to note that CHFA was first established as a private radio station in 1949 and that twenty-five years later, on April 1st 1974, ownership of the station was transferred to CBC-Radio-Canada.
When CHFA celebrated its 35th anniversary in 1984, several major events were occurring on the political scene. The Charter of Rights and Freedom and francophone homogeneous schooling were major topics of conversation. In April 1987, Léo Piquette asked a question in French in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly and the Piquette Affair was launched. In February 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada presented its decision in the Mercure case. The North-West Territories Act having been declared still in effect, the Court ruled that Alberta was obliged to publish its laws in the French language. During that same period the constitutional debate was launched in full force. And all of these events were included in CHFA’s daily programming.
Looking for ways to include more young Franco-Albertans in a greated number of CHFA’s activities, Denis Collette challenged Francophonie Jeunesse de l’Alberta (FJA) to find a project that would interest both the youth and the radio station. Prochaine Vague a new show organized for and by young Francophones seemed to be the ideal solution. At the time, it was the only show of its kind in Radio-Canada’s entire network.
CHFA also organized many successful broadcasts of a historical nature during that period. In 1988, the station produced a documentary series on the history of the Oblate Fathers in Alberta. CHFA also launched the series called Les Albertains which produced some 400 broadcasts over a five-year period. In 1989, Guy Lacombe, a Franco-Albertan historian, prepared a weekly broadcast on the history of francophones in Alberta.
But the most successful year was undoubtedly 1989, the year that marked CHFA’s 40th anniversary. In order to include the regional communities in the festivities, CHFA organized a recital in Bonnyville featuring soprano Lorraine Fontaine-O’Connell, pianiste Gisèle Rouleau and composer and jazz musician Paul Lamoureux.
The first Gala albertain de la chanson was held that same year. It is probably CHFA’s longest lasting project. The Gala whose main objective is the discovery of new talent is still producing the same kind of enthusiasm throughout the province every year since 1989. In 1990, CHFA and the ACFA organized the first Gala interprovincial de la chanson. It is now known as Chant-Ouest.
The highlight of 1989, however, was Alexis Constant’s oratorio entitled Les deux âmes performed by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Richard Eaton Singers under the direction of Uri Mayer. Three francophone singers from the West held the main roles. More than 2000 people attended the performance which was broadcasted live on the Radio-Canada network.
In the life of all institutions there are moments and events that seem to stand out more than others. For CHFA, the 1982 to 1990 period will be particularly remembered for its many successes and for its celebration of the French community, its artists and its history.