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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund

 

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In 1891, the North-West Territories Act of 1875 was amended by the Federal government. The Act gave the territories power to pass their own ordinances and control their public expenditures after they had been recommended to the lieutenant-governor. The territories had, up to that point, been officially bilingual, but many new settlers, most of them English-speaking, were surprised to find that there were two official languages, something which was made very clear when Lieutenant-governor Joseph Royal made his 1877 throne speech in English and French.1 In response to the bilingualism, a very strong lobby group began pushing to have English recognized as the territories’ only official language. Many of the territorial newspapers rallied around the cause, evidence of the strong pro-British sentiment that was present at the time. In 1891, after three years of intense debate, an ordinance was passed making English the language of legislation and the courts.

After the passing of the ordinance on the official language, a second blow was struck to the French-speaking population of the West. Ordinance number 22 of the North-West Territories of 1891-1892 was passed making English the only language of instruction in the schools. The Board of Education was replaced by the Council of Public Instruction which was composed of an Executive committee and four counsellors, of whom two are catholic and two are protestant, neither having the right to vote.2

The ordinance reversed the accord of 1888, which permitted bilingual education. After 1891, all education was to be in English; however, the designated counsellors could permit French language education in the primary grades.

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