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The Franco-Albertan Community in 1969-1970

In 1969 many new projects are created in the franco-albertan community following the changes made to the Alberta School Act, the adoption of the Official Languages Act and the creation of the Federal funding programs made available to Francophone minority communities and Francophone Education. Many members of the franco-albertan community feel as if several doors have opened up at the same time and that the new developments will allow the community to further its artistic, social and educational development. The year truly marks a turning point in the community’s future.

In April 1969, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta amended the School Act in order to permit the use of French as a language of instruction up to 50 % of the school day. Although the amendment will only become legal once the regulations governing its implementation are created, the Department of Education has decided to allow the establishment of several pilot project. Philip Lamoureux, the newly appointed Francophone education coordinator, has been given the responsibility of preparing the necessary regulations, of organizing the program of studies and of finding the appropriate pedagogical resources.

For the franco-albertan community, all of these changes require some adjustments. How will the new amendments be implemented in the community’s 27 bilingual schools which exist at the time? Firstly, the ACFA has decided to study the question during its annual meeting. Secondly the association has sent out 500 questionnaires in order to gather the opinions of the community members on the implementation of the new regulations concerning the use of French as a language of instruction. This same question is also discussed at the ACFA’s General Council. All the members of the community agree that the new amendment to the School Act represents a very important step in the survival and development of the Franco-Albertan community.

The nomination of a French Language Coordinator and the creation of the ATA specialist council, le Conseil Français, will have a profound impact on the Association des éducateurs bilingues de l’Alberta (AEBA). When viewed from a later perspective, it becomes evident that both of those events mark the end of the AEBA since both the Coordinator and the Conseil français will now be doing the work that the AEBA has done for the past thirty years.

But in the early days of 1970, the AEBA is still very active and its members are revising the French program of studies and correcting the annual Concours de français. The AEBA is also participating in the work of l’ACELF, of l’ACFA and in that of the Curriculum Sub-Committee of the Department of Education whose first task is the creation of what will latter become le Conseil français.

As for the establishment at Saint-Jean of a teacher-training school that would serve all of Western Canada, a recommendation made in the Royal Commission’s Book II on Education, negotiations are well on the way and the franco-albertan community is hoping that they will be successful. Saint-Jean which is now officially affiliated to the U of A is developing rapidly. François McMahon has been named the new rector and he replaces Arthur Lacerte.           

College authorities are trying to increase the number of courses offered in French to the 242 secondary school students still studying at Saint-Jean at the time. But the institution’s long term plans include the creation of a new secondary bilingual school that would regroup the secondary students of Saint-Jean and those of l’Académie Assomption. This dream will become a reality in 1970 when the Edmonton Catholic school Board establishes the J-H. Picard School.

In September, with the collaboration of the General Hospital’s School of Nursing, Saint-Jean has established a two year bilingual nursing course, the first of its kind in Canada. As for Saint-Jean’s Arts, Science and Education programs, more and more courses are being given in French and the Saint-Jean authorities report that they have begun negotiations with the U of A in order to extend its programs. Some 145 students are now registered at Saint-Jean which is now officially recognized as a Junior College.

In 1969, the Académie Assomption’s links with the Edmonton Separate School Board are becoming closer. The Collège Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix is playing an important role in the Falher Community. The college houses the offices of the Regional ACFA and of the Office nationale du film. The college has also become a religious centre for adults and an inter-parish youth center.

As for French radio, CHFA is working hard to enhance audience participation to its more popular programs. The station is also paying a lot of attention to local and Canadian talent. In 1969-1970, CHFA is still a private radio station since the negotiations that will lead to the sale of the station to the SRC will only start a few years later. But in retrospect it is possible to see that the climate is ripe for such talks between the leaders of the franco-albertan community and the SRC. For example, the SRC has decided to establish a relay station in the Rivière-la-Paix region which has had problem with radio reception since the establishment of the station in 1949. The new stations will receive 37% of its programming from CHFA and the remaining 63% from the SRC.

The regional offices of the ACFA are becoming more and more active. For example the Cercle régional d’Edmonton reports that their Cabane à sucre held at Collège Saint-Jean on March 30th  1968 was a great success as was the “épluchette” held at the Macdonald Hotel. This last celebration included a grand banquet during which the medal of la Fidélité française du Conseil de la vie française was given to Lucien Maynard. The Comité des dames under the presidency of Mme Gabrielle Baillargeon is doing good work as is the Comité Jeunesse who has taken upon itself to publish an activity calendar for the whole community and who has also been traveling in the various regions in order to establish a provincial meeting for Francophone youths.

The Morinville-Legal regional ACFA participated in the parades organized by the towns of Morinville and Legal to mark their yearly town celebrations. The Morinville-Legal regional ACFA has also played host for the 70 participants of the Conseil canadien de la coopération and for the visiting theatre group, le Théâtre du nouveau monde.

The Bonnyille regional ACFA has organized a second Cabane à sucre and has collaborated in the organization of the second annual concert of Choeur à choeur. The regional office has also gathered some 750 names that are to be included in telegram sent to Pierre Trudeau who is then attending a federal provincial meeting at the time.

In Saint-Paul in June 1969, the Caisse populaire has celebrated its 30th anniversary by moving in a new office. In January 1970, the popular choir Les Musicos directed by Laurier Levasseur  was created.

The members of the ACFA Régional de la Rivière-la-Paix completed an in-dept study of the new School Act amendments concerning the use of French as a language of instruction and they have encouraged their local Francophone teachers to launch pilot projects in the coming year. The local ACFA office is also proud to announce that the Girouxville museum established by the Oblate Fathers in 1969 has opened its doors.  The local ACFA office has also organized several cultural events: the concert of the university of Moncton choir, the production of the Théâtre français d’Edmonton and the show of a up and coming young singer called France Levasseur. More than 2,300 people attended these various cultural events.

These are but some of the events that have occurred in 1969-1970, the final year of a very important decade for the Franco-Albertan community. The ‘60s marked the beginnings of several important projects and promised new beginnings in many fields.

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