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The Franco-Albertan community in 1965-1966

Many readers may wonder how many Francophones chose to settle in Alberta and where they are living in 1965-1966. One might be tempted to believe that most of them chose to live in the larger cities and it is true that the Edmonton Francophone community has always been quite large. A good number of Franco-Albertans live in each of Edmonton’s French Catholic Parishes. And so, in 1965-1966, Saint-Joachim, Edmonton’s oldest catholic parish regroups some 1 900 French speaking parishioners. The Immaculée-Conception Parish includes 900 French-speaking parishioners and the new Saint-Thomas d’Aquin Parish situated on the south side includes 150 families and 650 French Canadians. Of the 1,266 parishioners of Sainte-Anne many are French-speaking. That same year, sources estimate the francophone population of Calgary at 5,000 French-speaking inhabitants.

But the Franco-Albertans have also settled elsewhere in the province. The names of the towns where there are active francophone communities may well surprise the reader as will some of the numbers involved. And this is the very reason why we have judged it important to list them. And so in 1965-1966 there are Francophones in:

  • Atmore(155 Francophones)
  • Beaumont(700 Francophones)
  • Bonnyville (1,511 Francophones)
  • Brosseau (119 Francophones)
  • Chauvin (232 Francophones)
  • Cluny (163 Francophones)
  • Cold Lake, Donnelly (780 Francophones)
  • Eaglesham (200 Francophones)
  • Falher (1,396 Francophones)
  • Fort Kent (390 Francophones)
  • Girouxville (1,030 Francophones)
  • Guy (490 Francophones)
  • Jean-Côté (695 Francophones)
  • Lac-la-Biche (400 Francophones)
  • LaCorey (136 Francophones)
  • Lafond (336 Francophones)
  • Lamoureux (200 Francophones)
  • Legal (1,100 Francophones)
  • Marie-Reine (329 Francophones)
  • McLennan (768 Francophones)
  • Morinville (883 Francophones)
  • Nampa, Picardville (331 Francophones)
  • Plamondon (620 Francophones)
  • Saint-Albert (515 Francophones)
  • St Edouard (260 Francophones)
  • St-Isidore, Sainte-Lina (320 Francophones)
  • Saint-Paul (2, 250 Francophones)
  • Saint-Vincent (280 Francophones)
  • Spirit-River (125 Francophones)
  • Tangente (545 Francophones)
  • Therien.

And what is happening in the Franco-Albertan community in 1965-1966? Since 1955 and the beginning of the presidency of Me André Déchène, the ACFA has attempted to modernize itself in order to better meet the needs of its members. Efforts to laicize the Association date back to this time as well.

But in 1966, the members of the clergy and the religious communities still play a large role in the community. They are doing most of the work in the schools and in the various organizations that have been created to ensure the survival of the French fact in Alberta. More that 33 members of the secular clergy, 3 members of the Rédemptoristes and 64 Oblates of Marie-Immaculée are working in Alberta’s Francophone community. As for the members of the women’s religious communities 64 nuns from the Filles de Jésus and 40 nuns from the Congregation of les Soeurs d’Evron are working in the schools and hospitals of the province. Although we are unable to identify precisely how many members of each of the following religious congregations are also active in the Franco-Albertan community, the sheer number of religious congregations involved is a clear indication of the large number of nuns who are still involved in the development of the Franco-Albertan community in 1966. These congregations include les Soeurs de Sainte-Croix, les Religieuses de l’Assomption, les Soeurs de la Providence, les Filles de la Sagesse, les Filles de la Providence, les Soeurs de la Miséricorde, les Oblates du Sacré-Coeur, les Petites Filles de St-Joseph, les Religieuses Hospitalières de St Joseph, les Miliciennes du Rosaire and les Oblates Missionnaires de Marie-Immaculée to name a few.

In the field of Francophone Education, the Franco-Albertan community is doing what is considered at the time to be tremendous progress. Saint-Jean’s collège d’Éducation is developing fast. Negociations with the Alberta Government has resulted in the use of French as a language of instructions for the students registered in Grades 10 to 12 at Saint-Jean and at l’Académie Assomption. And more importantly, the two institutions have been recognized by the Edmonton Catholic School Board as being Centers of excellence where a more advanced program of studies is being offered. The community leaders of the day believe that this is the most that can be achieved under the existing School Act and that they must now work at amending the Act if more progress is to be made.

In 1965, Lucien Maynard is re-elected president of the ACFA and the assocation’s annual meeting is held in Bonnyville on November 5 and 6 1965. Also, to better meet the needs of the community, the ACFA has created an employment center which is of great service to both employers and prospective employees.

The Franco-Albertan community is also busy establishing relations with other francophone communities in Canada and with Quebec. In 1965, the Franco-Albertans will work closely with le Service d’outre-frontières du ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec, with le Conseil de la vie-française, le mouvement Desjardins, la Fédération canadienne des Associations d’Éducation, l’Association canadienne des éducateurs de langue française and with la Fédération canadienne-française de l’Ouest.

Negotiations with Ottawa and with le ministère des Postes have resulted in a bilingual sign for the new Edmonton Post Office and the insurance that all future Post Office signs across Canada will be bilingual.

Forty years later, it is possible for us to see that in 1965-1966 the Franco-Albertan community is on the brink of great changes brought about mainly by the publication of the Royal Commission reports. These changes will mainly be felt in the area of l’Éducation française. The 1969 adoption of the Official Languages Act will lead to important changes all across Canada more specifically in the field of les Services en français. But in 1966, none of this has yet occurred and the Francophone community can only hope that the briefs presented to the Royal Commission by the ACFA, by the students of Collège Saint-Jean, by the AEBA and by la Fédération canadienne-française de l’Ouest will bear fruit.

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