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Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

The idea of an association which would regroup the various Franco-Albertan organizations had been considered by the members of the Société du parler français in 1912. In 1914, the outbreak of the First World War put such growth on hold and nothing was realized until 1925, when the need for such an organization once again became obvious.

The clergy, under the direction of Archbishop O’Leary, was not particularly sympathetic to the needs of the French community and many believed that a lay organization would be a better way to assure the protection of linguistic and educational rights. With the rise of the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA), who the rural Franco-Albertans voted for, a rift had been driven between the urban and rural French community. As if that wasn’t enough, the politically minded Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste also lost favour.

The first meeting was held on 13 December 1925; and organized by the feminine group, le club Jeanne-d’Arc; 400 people were present. However, it was 17 July 1926, that the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA) was established, using parish circles to determine the thrust of the organization.

The ACFA, which exists to this day, pursues the mandate of protecting the rights of French-speakers in Alberta. The ACFA published the first edition of la Survivance (a publication created to serve the association) and organized a series of bimonthly radio concerts which were broadcast from Edmonton and listened to with great appreciation. The organization promoted a competition for the top students of the French program organized by the Association des Éducateurs bilingues de l’Alberta. A bilingual agronomist was named by the Alberta government and an organization for school children, "l’Avant-garde de l’ACFA" was established. The notes of their meetings and some of their texts were published in la Survivance.

For nearly 80 years now, the ACFA has been protecting the rights of Franco-Albertans; over 50 organizations are represented by her. The membership is no longer represented by parish circles as it was in the beginning, but by local circles and regional offices which answer for the local members.

Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta from 1955 to the year 2000

In 1925, the Franco-Albertan community felt the need to create a provincial association. Some three hundred people attended a banquet that was held at the MacDonald Hotel on the 13th of December 1925. This marked the beginning of the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA).
Since the very beginning of its foundation, the ACFA has always had to focus on two different kinds of activities : those having to do with the internal development of the community and those having to do with the establishment and maintenance of relations with outside groups and with governments.

Internal development

From 1955 to the year 2000, the ACFA was responsible for a great number of projets dealing with the internal development of the community.

The importance of French Education doubled when, in 1968, the Alberta School Act was amended to permit the use of French as a lang uage of instruction for 50% of the school day. This number grew to 80 % with the introduction, in 1976, of Regulation 250. In 1977, the ACFA established the Bureau de l’éducation which became an important tool in the development of Alberta’s immersion programs. During this period, the ACFA also participated in the development of Collège Saint-Jean’s Éc ole de Pédagogie.

The adoption in 1982 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms proved to be a major development in the field of francophone minority education. L’ACFA was responsible for a large share of the work that needed to be done with the courts, with school board authorities, with government and with the parents. For example, the ACFA completed two major studies in the field of homogenous francophone schooling. These studies not only helped consolidate the expectations of the francophone community in matters relating to francophone schooling they also helped the community present a more united front when faced with the need to negociate the question of management and control of francophone schools with the Alberta Government after the Supreme Court decision in the Mahé/Bugnet case.

When the privately-owned CHFA started broadcasting in 1949 it did so because of the efforts of the community under the leadership of the ACFA. During its first twenty-five years of existence, CHFA was managed by a group of directors elected by the Conseil général of the ACFA. These directors who formed Radio-Edmonton Ltd and represented the community were in fact the real owners of the radio station. CHFA was sold to CBC-Radio-Canada in 1974.

The ACFA was also very active in the establishment of French language television in Alberta. The French television CBXFT started broadcasting on March 1st 1970 after an agreement had been established between the Metropolitan Edmonton Education Television Association (MEETA), the Secretary of State, the Alberta Department of Education and the ACFA.

The ACFA’s Service de librairie française established in 1946 closed its doors when Montreal-based Fides opened a branch store in Edmonton in 1969. Three years later Fides decided to leave and thus provoked the creation, by the ACFA, of La Librairie Schola and later of the Centre culturel mobile. In 1977, the ACFA gave the name Carrefour to its Edmonton bookstore and the many regional outlets who were then selling a variety of cultural material.

Created in 1928, the newspaper La Survivance was renamed le Franco-Albertain in 1967. In 1975, the ACFA became the sole owner of l’Imprimerie La Survivance and of the newspaper le Franco-Albertain.

In 1955, the ACFA was still financed solely by the community. In an effort to find new ways of financing its activities, the ACFA established Le Service de Sécurité familiale in collaboration with the Assurance-vie Desjardins of Montreal. Finally in 1969, the Secretary of State developed programs who offered a measure of financial support to minority francophone associations including l’ACFA.

Following the completion in 1960 of a report on its internal organization, the ACFA decided to replace its numerous little cercles paroissiaux by five large regional groups which are still in existence today.

Over the years, the ACFA also helped establish many new organizations. For example, the Association multiculturelle francophone de l’Alberta was established after a series of consultation in every region of the province. These discussions also led to the adoption of an official policy on multiculturalism which was also adopted by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada in 1989.

External affairs

One of the major effects of the Royal Commission of 1963 was to heighten interest in bilingualism across the country. As the official spokesman for the French community in Alberta, the ACFA was called upon to establish and maintain a growing number of relations with various associations and with governments

From 1966 to 1969, the ACFA participated in Quebec’s famous États généraux. In 1960, l’ACFA helped create the Fédération canadienne-française de l’Ouest and the Fédération des francophones hors Québec (FFHQ) in 1975.

In 1982, the British Paliament acceded to the Constitutional Resolution of the Parliament of Canada and adopted the Constitutions Act 1982. This marked the beginning of intense constitutional debate in Canada. As the French community’s official spokesman the ACFA was involved in a large part of these discussions especially as they related to the place of Canada’s minority communities in both the Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accords.

The Piquette Affair and the Mercure Case were important moments in the history of the Franco-Albertan community.In February 1988, the Supreme Court decision in the Mercure Case validated the French community’s constitutional rights entrenched in Section 110 of the North-West Territoires Act but declared that Alberta could abolish them unilaterally. The ACFA lobbied both the provincial and the federal government extensively but to no avail. Alberta became a unilingual English province following the adoption of the Languages Act in July 1988.

During this same period the ACFA also initiated the negotiations with the Federal Government which resulted in the first Canada-Community agreement several years later. The Official Languages Act of 1988 established that all federal institutions were committed to the enhancement of the vitality of Canada’s linguistic minority communities. This opened the door of every federal department for groups such as l’ACFA.

The establishment in 1999 of the provincial Secrétariat francophone became the major political success of the ACFA during the period between 1955 and the year 2000.

As the official spokesperson for the French Community, the ACFA’s main role has always been the establishment of the community’s objectives and the acquisition of the resources needed to realize these objectives. But to accomplish this task the ACFA has had to count on the generosity of its members. In a real sense then the ACFA belongs to the Francophones of Alberta

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