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The Franco-Albertan Community in 1964-1965

Many successes mark the year 1964-65. The community celebrates the fact that Me Louis A. Desrochers, a former president of l’Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta, has been named to the University of Alberta Board of Governors and that Dr. Roger Motut was named Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

The community leaders are also quick to point out the positive effects of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism established in 1963 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. The ACFA officials presented the association’s brief in February 1965 and they have come away from the experience with a very positive outlook on the importance of the Commission and its work. They believe that the Royal Commission has opened up an honest and frank dialogue between members of the Anglophone and the Francophone communities and that because of this, the Francophones have discovered that many members of the Anglophone community are very open to the French fact in Alberta and in Canada.

Moreover, this new dialogue between the English and the French communities has given rise to a greater desire on the part of the Anglophones to learn French. In order to meet the needs of those who wish to have more opportunities either to learn French or to speak it more often, the ACFA has established the Club “Parlez-vous”. It is an excellent project since more frequent meetings between members of the two communities will also lead to stronger ties and better understanding.

The club is an instant success. As of September 21 1965, more than 150 people gather every Monday night at St. Joseph’s Collège on the U of A campus in order to converse in French. Dr. Roger Motut has accepted to direct the activities of the new club which is composed of 24 teams each of which is under the direction of a member of the Franco-Albertan community.

On February 1st 1965, the franco-albertan bookstore Schola opened its doors for business in Edmonton. Schola was created to replace the bookstore that had previously been opened by Fidès in Edmonton in July 1960 but that had closed its doors soon after. The new company is composed of 36 shareholders who have invested a total sum of $ 18,000. More importantly,  the investors have all agreed to return 40% of their revenues to the ACFA. For the community, such gestures are common place since the survival and the development of the community is always the first and most important objective.

In 1965, the ACFA will present a private incorporation bill to the Alberta Legislature. The request is easily granted and the bill is accepted with a minimum of fuss. It is important to remember that this was not the case in 1945 when the ACFA’s proposed incorporation bill gave rise to what became known as the CHFA Affaire. But times change and so do attitudes. According to Lucien Maynard, the president of the ACFA, the 1965 incorporation bill is particularly interesting inasmuch as it allows any and all Francophone associations following goals similar to those of l’ACFA to be incorporated under the same Act without loosing any of their independence, a fact that the AEBA will take advantage of that same year.

However the news in the field of Francophone Education are not as positive. It is important to remember that English is the official language of instruction in Alberta since 1892. But according to section 386 of the School Act, a school district can authorize the teaching of a French primary course which in fact permits the use of French as a language of instruction during the first two years of schooling. Students must however be taught to read in English as of the second year of schooling. From grades three on, one hour of French can be taught every day. In April 1965 the ACFA has discovered that the Government is preparing to amend section 386 in order to increase the amount of English taught in grade two. This, says Maynard is a reduction of what the Franco-Albertans already consider to be insufficient.

Following intense negotiations with the Minister of Education, the ACFA will obtain some modifications to the proposed changes but these represent only a small victory. However, the Government will redeem itself somewhat in the eyes of the community by nominating a French Language Education Coordinator for the province, M. Philip Lamoureux who will occupy the position as of September 1966.

In 1965, the theme of the annual ACFA meeting is the development of the Francophone Credit Unions. Following the meeting a Federation of the province’s nineteen francophone Credit Unions will be established.

The ACFA president in 1965 is Lucien Maynard and the vice-presidents are Dr Roger Motut and Dr Joseph Moreau. Maynard is also the president of the Conseil de direction of the Schola Bookstore. The president of the AEBA is Paul Chamberland of St-Paul and Paul Chauvet is the president of the Association des commissaires bilingues de l’Alberta.

Saint-Jean’s Collège bilingue d’Éducation celebrates its first year of operation on September 18 1964. Father Lacerte, Saint-Jean’s rector, reports that 22 students are registered in the first year of the program and that six students are now completing the second year. Students and personnel at Saint-Jean are happy to hear that a new building is proposed for the Saint-Jean Campus. The building will include a large cafeteria, numerous classrooms, language labs, auditoriums and a student lounge.

Saint-Paul’s Petit séminaire will open its doors in August 1965 under the direction of l’abbé Bérubé. M. l’abbé Bourassa is responsible for the recruitment of seminarians. l’abbé Bissonnette, l’abbé Lachance and four nuns from the order of la Sainte-Famille are also working for the seminary.

Many organizations are active in the rural franco-albertan communities in 1965. In the Saint-Paul region these include l’Action rurale presided by Jean-Joseph Lajoie from La Corey and  CARDA presided by Léonidas Cadrin. Carda is the result of the fusion of la SER of Saint-Paul and la Caisse d’établissement l’Avenir Ltd. CARDA is also active in the Rivière-la-Paix region.

The years 1964-1965 is also marked by the sad passing away of father Paul-Émile Breton on June 17 1964. Father Breton was a former editor of La Survivance and a former general secretary of l’ACFA. He also wrote many history books during his term as the Oblate Father’s official historian. But most of all, Breton will be remembered for his tireless work during the years leading up to the creation of CHFA, the French Radio Station in Edmonton. For Breton the establishment of CHFA was a labor of love and it is undoubtedly his greatest success.

On November 11th  1964, Senator Aristide Blais, one of the community’s best known doctors, passed away at the age of 89. Following his senatorial nomination on January 29 1940, Dr Blais graciously declared that he was indeed very happy with the nomination but that his new position was probably more the result of the high regard with which the Francophones of Alberta were viewed than by his own personal merit.

Je suis des plus heureux, mais je pense que mes nouvelles fonctions sont moins la reconnaissance de mes propres mérites qu’un tribut payé aux canadiens-français de l’Alberta.(Almanach 1965, p. 75)

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