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The Franco-Albertan Community in 1963-1964

The people and the associations
In 1964, Louis Desrochers is finishing his term as president of the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA). Lionel Tellier and Jacques Faille are the association’s vice-presidents. The treasurer is Léo Ayotte and father Jean Patoine is the secretary of the Association’s Executive Committee which also includes Louis Boucher, Me André Déchène, Gérard Diamond, Me Lucien Maynard, Dr Joseph Moreau, Dr Roger Motut and Eugène Trottier the association’s “propagandiste”. The ACFA’s General Council (Conseil général) is composed of representatives from the province’s many francophone regions: the city of Edmonton (president: Dr Louis A. Arès), the Morinville-Legal region (president: Mathias Tellier), the Beaumont-Lamoureux region (president: Laurent Beaudoin), the Saint-Paul region (president: Sylvain Lefevre), the Bonnyville region (president: Jean-Joseph Lajoie), the Lac la Biche region (president: Roméo Piquette), the Rivière-la-Paix region (president: Jean Doucette) and the Calgary region (president: Jean-Louis Lebel).

The ACFA’s Education committee is divided into three sub committees: the subcommittee responsible for the “Concours de français”, the one responsible for the collège d’Éducation at Saint-Jean and a third called “Le comité des parents et maîtres”. Some 32 members of the ACFA participate in the work done by the  Education committee and its subcommittees. The Association also has a Finance Committee which also regroups three subcommittees namely the “comité de la Sécurité familiale”, “le comité Économique” and “le comité des Archives”. The ACFA also has a “comité du Secrétariat”, a publicity committee, a radio committee and la Société de prêts de l’ACFA aux Étudiants. Because of its numerous committees and projects the ACFA needs the support of a large number of volunteers. More than 100 people participate in the work of the ACFA.

But it is important to remember that the ACFA is not the only association at work in the community. There are a good number of other associations at the time and a large number of volunteers is involved in all of them as well. By itself, this fact is an important indication not only of the strength and vitality of the franco-albertan community at the time but also a clear indication of the depth of commitment, what the Francophones call “engagement”, that Franco-Albertans feel towards their community.

In 1963, the many organizations at work in the Francophone community include l’Association des Éducateurs bilingues de l’Alberta - AEBA (president: M. Sylvain Lefebvre), l’Association des commissaires bilingues de l’Alberta ACBA (president: Paul Chauvet), les Collégiens Comédiens (president Léonard Rousseau), l’Amical du Collège Saint-Jean (president: L’abbé Camille Dozois), l’Amicale de l’Académie Assomption (president: Jacqueline Villeneuve), and les Jeunesses musicales d’Edmonton (Section française) under the presidency of Michel Morin. In the rural regions there are also many active groups. In Saint-Paul there is l’Action rurale (president: Jean-Joseph Lajoie), la SER (president: Léonidas Cadrin), l’Avenir Savings and Credit Union Ltd. (president: Léo Jubinville). In the Grouard region there is la SER (president: J.-Émile Doucet), la Caisse (president: J.-Émile Doucette) and the Comité diocésain de l’action catholique rurale (president: le père Clément Desrochers).

In 1963-1964, the Knights of Columbus have five active francophone councils in Alberta: the Conseil LaVérendrye No 1938 in Edmonton (Arthur de Roquigny), the Conseil Thérien no 2908 in Bonnyville (Edwin Collins), the Conseil Grandin No 2715 in Saint-Paul (Olivier Lafleur), the Conseil Legal No 3221 (Émile Parent) and the Conseil Grouard No 3025 (Thomas Lessard).

There are also many religious groups and communities at work in the Franco-Albertan community in 1963 and these include the Oblate Fathers, the Rédemptoristes, the Soeurs de l’Assomption, the Soeurs de la Charité de Notre Dame d’Evron, the Filles de Jésus, the Soeurs Grises de Montréal, the Soeurs de Ste-Croix, the Soeurs de la Providence, the Filles de la Sagesse, the Filles de la Providence, the Soeurs de la Miséricorde, the Oblates du Sacré-Coeur, the Petites Filles de St-Joseph, the Religieuses Hospitalières de St Joseph, the Miliciennes du Rosaire and the Oblates Missionnaires de Marie-Immaculée. These many religious people work in the schools, in the catholic parishes and in the hospitals of the province.

The major projects

Two important projects whose effects will be felt many years later originated in 1963-1964. The first one is the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism appointed in 1963 by the Federal government in order to inquire into and report upon the existing state of bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada and to recommend what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian Confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding races, taking into account the contribution made by the other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada. For the Francophone community in Alberta, the impact of the Commission’s findings will be powerful and long-reaching more particularly in the field of Francophone Education. Book II of the Commission’s final report which deals specifically with Francophone Education presents a series of recommendations which are at the root of the Education rights that will later be included in Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Book II of the Royal Commission report recommends that parents should be able to select the official language of their choice for the education of their children and urges the provinces to provide minority language schooling. These Royal Commission recommendations are in fact an important albeit moderate first step in what will later become the minority language education rights entrenched in Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In 1964, the ACFA is busy preparing to meet the members of the Royal Commission and the association has established a committee responsible for the creation of an official brief that the ACFA wishes to present to the Commission members in February 1965.

The second most important project of 1963-1964 is the creation of Collège Saint-Jean’s École de pédagogie. This project will demand a great amount of work and energy and one of the major persons involved in the project is Father Arthur Lacerte, the Rector of Collège Saint-Jean. The ACFA is also involved and according to president Desrochers, the association is pleased with the progress recorded to date since in 1963-1964 the University of Alberta and Collège Saint-Jean have already reached an agreement.

As of 1963, Saint-Jean’s Collège bilingue d’Éducation will offer the officially approved teacher preparation courses required by the Province of Alberta’s Department of Education. At the time of its establishment, the École de pédagogie is the only institution outside of Quebec that has been approved to offer teacher preparation courses in French.

The dream has come true but it did not do so without a lot of work and effort. And it did not happen overnight. In fact, members attending the ACFA annual meeting in 1928 adopted a resolution asking that such an institution be created. Actual work on the creation of l’École de Pédagogie started in 1960 with the help of l’Université Laval who agreed to establish a branch of its campus at Saint-Jean the following year. Although Laval’s charter allows the university to open a branch anywhere in Canada, as one may well imagine, the 1961 project was not well received in Alberta by members of the university and of the government. Political pressure will come into play and an official agreement is finally reached between the U of A and Collège Saint-Jean in 1964 stating that the École de Pédagogie will in fact be affiliated to the University of Alberta.

In 1963-1964 the ACFA is also actively engaged in the economic development of the franco-albertan community. Interested members of the community will meet on July 25 1964 in order to study the economic development of the community and more particularly that of the community’s cooperative movements and credit unions.

Eugène Trottier, a well-known ACFA employee, has been particularly active in the development of le Service de sécurité familiale, a joint project developed by l’ACFA and Desjardins of Quebec, in order to help finance the ACFA operations. The Franco-Albertan Almanach is a second project that has been put in place in order to help finance the work of l’ACFA.

Established in 1962, the Société de prêts de l’ACFA has already helped some 35 young franco-albertan students to complete their postsecondary studies by lending them a total sum of more than $11, 000. 

In 1963-1964 the pioneers of Rivière-la-Paix celebrate the 50th anniversary of their arrival in Alberta. A large reception has been organized to mark the event and the invited guest is Félix Leclerc one of French Canada’s most important and best loved artists.

Other events also occur over the year and these include the participation of the ACFA in the activities of La Fédération canadienne-française des éducateurs de langue française, the judgeship of Me André Déchène, a former ACFA president, and unfortunately the passing away of Dr Louis-Philippe Mousseau also a former ACFA president.

The sum total of the 1963-64 activities show that the year can in fact be characterized as being the starting point of two very important projects with long-reaching effects as well as the realization of many smaller projects all of which required the work and dedication of a great number of members of the franco-albertan community.  

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