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The Franco-Albertan Community in 1946-1947

The November 19 1947 edition of the franco-albertan newspaper La Survivance reports that a franco-albertan Almanach will soon be published. It is a modest document entitled “1948 L’Almanach français de l’Alberta” and it presents a few of the community’s historical highlights and some of the more influential members of the community. The 1947 Almanach also describes in detail the resources of the Edmonton archdiocese. The last part of the document presents a series of statistics on the number of Catholics and Francophones in the different provinces of Canada.

1948 is an important year for Alberta. Imperial Oil’s discovery of the province’s first oil well in Leduc marks the beginning of Alberta’s fast growing prosperity. Sources say that this period also marks the province’s entry into modernism an attitude change that will also be reflected in the Franco-Albertan community but later, at the beginning of the 1960’s. However, in 1946-1947 the Francophone community is still trying to put into place what it considers to be essential tools for its continued development. One of these tool is French radio, a powerful tool that will need to be put in place very soon if the Franco-Albertan community is to counterbalance the presence of the growing numbers of English speaking people that are being attracted to Alberta by the province’s new-found prosperity and bright future.

On June 17 1947, a francophone delegation from the three western provinces will meet with the CBC Board of Governors. The Francophones want to obtain the permit needed to open and operate private radio stations in Saskatchewan and in Alberta. An application made in 1944 resulted in a single permit for a station in Saint-Boniface. The 1947 application is not successful. The Board of Governors has decided to delay its decision until a technical application is prepared. The question of a French radio station in Alberta is again discussed in September 1947 during first ever public meeting of the CBC Board of Governor held in Calgary. The question will give rise to a great deal of controversy but again no decision is taken.

On January 23rd 1948, the ACFA and the Comité de la radio will again appear before the CBC Board of Governors and again the decision is delayed. In fact the Board of Governors will only render a decision in March of 1948 and luckily it is a favorable one. The Franco-Albertan community will finally receive the long sought after permit which will allow it to build and pay for its own private radio Station.

In 1947, the Francophone community is also thinking of opening a community center but the project will not be realized mainly because all of the community’s human and financial resources are needed to establish the new radio station.

In the field of Francophone Education, although English is the official language of instruction in Alberta since 1892, Francophones have been given the right to offer a Primary course in French. This Primary course allows for the use of French as a language of instruction in the first and second year of schooling and for the teaching of one hour of French from grades 3 to grades 9. Established in 1946, the Association des éducateurs bilingues de l’Alberta (AEBA) has replaced the AIBA which was created in 1926 but which has lost its membership over the year. For the next twenty years, the AEBA will play a vital role in the development of Francophone education in Alberta. A year after its establishment, the AEBA will organize the first “Festival de la chanson française” in Alberta one of the many cultural activities that will have a profound influence on the franco-albertan students over the coming years.

Collège Saint-Jean is also playing an important role in  the community in 1947. The College’s secondary program of studies is affiliated to the Alberta Department of Education while its Arts program is affiliated to the University of Ottawa. In 1947, the Collège will begin offering the Philosophy course allowing its students to complete their entire BA program on the Saint-Jean campus.

In 1947 Dr L.-Ph Mousseau is the president of the ACFA. He was elected in 1946. The general secretary is Father Breton.

Inaugurated in 1946, the ACFA bookstore is a very modest little venture that has been tucked away in one of the corners of the La Survivance building. The store has been established in the hope of meeting the needs of the community who has just lost its access to reading material in French since M. Pigeon closed his bookstore in 1945. But to be honest the new ACFA bookstore is not really a store at all. It is more of a service that is linked with the AEBA’s “Concours de Français”. Maurice Lavallée has volunteered to look after it and he is hoping to add a few French LP’s to the collection.

In 1946-1947 the Franco-Albertan community is enjoying a period of economic growth. Some 20 francophone credit unions have been operating since 1945 and in 1946 the ACFA and the Société d’enseignement postsecondaire have established the Fédération des coopératives franco-albertaines which regroups various cooperatives and all of the province’s francophone credit unions. The president of the new association is Paul Sicotte from Falher.                  

But in 1947 the greatest strength of the Franco-Albertan community is the catholic Church which is still very supportive of the French fact. For example, the Edmonton archdiocese is composed of five religious communities and 21 women’s religious communities. Many of them, like the Oblate Fathers are particularly active in the Franco-Albertan community.

All in all 1946-47 has been a good year. When one remembers the work done by associations such as the AEBA, the large impact of the ACFA’s small bookstore, the great amount of work done for the establishment of French radio and the creation of the Fédération des coopératives albertaines, it is easy to see that the year 1946-1947 is in fact  a prelude to an era of prosperity which will reach its peak at the end of the 1960’s.

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