February 6, 2016 10:02 pm

French community in Edmonton growing despite concerns culture isn’t being passed on

WATCH: Julia Wong reports on local francophones trying to perserve their culture in Edmonton.


EDMONTON – The French community in Edmonton has thrived in recent years, according to the French Quartered Business Association, but there are worries it may not be sustainable.

Jean Johnson, executive director of the association, said there are more than 30,000 people in Edmonton whose first language is French and between 80,000 and 85,000 who speak the language.

He said that, historically, French speaking citizens came to Edmonton and Alberta because of the economy.

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“What it’s really done is diversified culturally the presence of [the Francophones] so that the Francophone community today mirrors the civil society in Alberta in terms of cultural diversity,” Johnson said.

Johnson said La Cite Francophone helped create a hub for the community to gather for programs and events.

“I think for other Edmontonians, it’s an opportunity for people to come and discover a multi-ethnic Francophone community right here at La Cite Francophone,” he said.

Ginette Boulianne can attest to that. Boulianne grew up speaking French in Saskatchewan. When she moved to Alberta in 2000, she said it was important to find a Francophone community,

“I was thrilled to see how the Francophone community in Edmonton I found was very alive and well,” she said.

Boulianne said Francophone culture is such a priority that she drives in from Sherwood Park to spend time at La Cite Francophone, to take her daughter to Francophone dance lessons or participate in events such as the Flying Canoe Festival.

“French culture is always part of who I am. It’s wonderful. It’s great those opportunities are here to do stuff in French and to meet up with people who share the same culture,” she said.

Johnson said it is important for the French community to have a presence in the city because Canada is, technically, a bilingual country.

“Canada does bolster values of cultural diversity and linguistic duality. I think we reflect both of those values as a community by virtue of the fact we are Francophone and by virtue of the fact we brought this huge richness of these diverse cultures coming from African cultures and all over Europe,” he said.

But Lisette Trottier, a spokesperson for the French Canadian Association of Alberta – Edmonton chapter, said there are concerns Francophone culture in the city may not be sustainable.

Trottier, who is also a French immersion teacher, said 70 per cent of Francophones either lose their ability to speak French or never learned the language from their parents.

She said being integrated into the culture often comes down to places where you can use the French language or activities that involve French heritage or culture.

“Living in a minority situation is a bit like going against the flow. It’s just easier to assimilate and to do like everybody else. I’ve often had to justify why I’m choosing to do things in French,” she said.

Trottier said one way to offset assimilation is to create more spaces, like La Cite, for French-speaking residents and to create events that aren’t exclusive to Francophones.

“We’re not just inviting the Francophone community to events but the community-at-large so they can get to know us. We’re better understood and people who have that real interest can become part of that community as well.”

© 2016 Shaw Media

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