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The Franco-Albertan Community in 1968-1969

Dr Joseph Moreau was re-elected president of the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA) during the association’s general assembly in 1967. However, Dr Moreau will resign his position shortly after and he will be replaced by Gérard Diamond. M. Diamond will himself be replaced by Dr Roger Motut in 1969.

In 1968, the general assembly of l’ACFA is held in Calgary on November 2nd and 3rd and its theme is “L’école française, une utopie?” During this period, the ACFA is composed of six regional councils: le Cercle Edmonton under the presidency of Jacques Leclaire, the Bonnyville Regional Council (president: Dr Jean-Paul Bugeaud), the Saint-Paul Regional Council  (president:  Jules Van Brabant), the Rivière-la-Paix Regional Council (president: Bernard Boulet), the Hinton Regional Council (president: Pierre Guimond), and the Morinville-Legal Regional Council (president: Georges Nobert).

On the national scene, Pierre Elliott Trudeau is the prime minister of Canada and his government will have a profound impact on the minority Francophone communities across Canada.

In 1969, Parliament adopts the Official Languages Act with the support of all parties. This Act states that the English and French languages are the official languages of Canada for all purposes of the Parliament and Government of Canada, and possess and enjoy equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all the institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada. The Act stipulates that federal services to the public are to be provided in English and in French wherever there is significant demand, and sets out the duties of federal institutions in this regard. It also describes the role and functions of the Commissioner of Official Languages. Keith Spicer is named the first Commissioner and he will take office in 1970. A regional office of the Commissioner is opened in Edmonton in October 1981.

Following the adoption of the 1969 Official Languages Act, the Francophone and Anglophone Minorities portfolio is given to the Secretary of State who will organize a socio-cultural development program for the minorities under the direction of René Préfontaine, This program has identified areas in which the government has decided to financially support various community activities. One of these areas is “l’animation sociale”. Eventually, the Secretary of State will encourage the francophone communities in every western province to set up a social animation program by ensuring a financial support for the programs.

For the first time in its history, the ACFA will receive a much-needed financial support from the Federal government. Because of the historical importance attached to the event it is interesting to note that the first two checks given out to the franco-albertan community by Gérard Pelletier, the Secretary of State, are addressed to l’ACFA, one for the support of its social animation program and one for the support of its secretariat. It is reported that Jean Patoine, the general secretary of the ACFA, was literally overwhelmed by the association’s new-found wealth.

The financial help that it has received from the Federal Government will allow the ACFA to set-up its social animation program and on September 27 1969, the General Council of the ACFA will hold an information session on the new animation method. Two specialists from the Institut coopératif Desjardins have been invited to Edmonton to help the ACFA members better understand the proposed method. Following this meeting the ACFA will officially adopt the proposed program.

The financial support given by the Federal Government for Francophone education is also one of the most important results of the Official Languages Act. This support has arrived at a good time since it will help implement the changes to the School Act adopted by the Alberta Government  in April 1968. According to these changes, French can be used as a language of instruction up to 50% of the school day.

In the area of radio broadcasting, a new Federal law has given the SRC/CBC a new mandate: the network must ensure a national service all the while promoting national unity. The new federal law has also created the CRTC which is now responsible for the allocation of permits and for the regulation of radio and television broadcasting.

In the Franco-Albertan community, the whole question of French television services has not progressed much in the past years. However, during the April 10th 1969 visit of the Secretary of State, Gérard Pelletier, the Francophone community leaders will present him with a petition calling for the establishment of a French television station in Edmonton. The petition includes some 18,000 names and it has been organized by the Women’s committee of the Cercle Edmonton of l’ACFA.

The August 6th  1969 edition of Le Franco-Albertain reports that the CRTC has approved the establishment of a new television station in Edmonton operated by the Société Radio-Canada. The new station will broadcast partly in French and partly in English. The English programming is ensured by the Metropolitan Edmonton Education Television Association (MEETA) and the French programming originates from the French Montreal network. The new permit has been given for a three year period after which the new station will broadcast exclusively in French and will become an integral part or the French television network of the Société Radio-Canada.

In 1968, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism has published the second book of its report and it deals solely with bilingual education in Canada. The Royal Commission recommendations presented in Book II will later serve as a starting point for the rights included in the Section 23 Canadian Charter of Rights and Privileges. One of these recommendation (Recommendation 19) states the need to create a francophone university in Western Canada. This recommendation will play an important role in the development Collège Saint-Jean who has recently become affiliated to the U of A. Following a meeting between the ACFA and the Hon Harry Strom, the prime minister of Alberta, the question of Saint-Jean’s École de pédagogie will be put on the agenda of the up-coming Western Education Minister’s Meeting. Saint-Jean is hoping to become the new francophone teacher-preparation center for the four western provinces.

In 1969, the annual meeting of l’ACELF is held in Edmonton at the MacDonald Hotel from the 18th to the 21st of August. It is the second time that the Franco-Albertan community hosts the ACELF annual meeting an important event which regroups francophones from all over Canada.

On the artistic scène the new “À coeur joie” choral singing movement which is very popular on the Canadian scene is also becoming very well known and much appreciated in Alberta. In 1968, two “Choeur à coeur” concerts are held, one in Edmonton and one in Bonnyville where some 120 singers from three large choirs have come together: the ’67 from Bonnyville, the Chantamis, an Edmonton choir, and the Collège Saint-Jean choir. Also during this period, many young francophone pop singers are attempting to start solo singing careers. These artists include Michelle Diamond, Paulette Lorieau, France Levasseur, Ghislain Bergeron, Jean-Claude Lajoie, René Aubin and Garielle Bugeaud.

The Franco-Albertan youth groups are also very active during this period. A group called Jeuneactualité has been established following the dissolution of the Comité des jeunes du Cercle de l’ACFA d’Edmonton. This new group is presided by Paul Denis and its main objective is the is establishment of a Cultural Center. The group will receive a $5,000 grant from the Secretary of State and the grant is being used to renovate and set up the Salle Laurier which Jeuneactualité has rented from the Saint-Joachim Parish. The room is located in the former FCJ Convent situated next to the Saint-Joachim Church. The renovated room will be used as a Boîte à chanson.

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