London’s francophone community will come together this weekend to rally for its rights in the face of government cuts to French services.
The rally, set for Saturday afternoon in Victoria Park from 1-3 p.m., will protest the provincial Tories’ decision earlier this month to eliminate both the French-Language Services Commissioner and a proposed French-language university.
Premier Doug Ford initially said the decision was made to trim the provincial deficit, but the government hasn’t outlined how much money would actually be saved.
After intense public and political backlash, the Tories backtracked slightly. They announced last week the creation of the position of French-Language Services Commissioner within the provincial ombudsman’s office. They also plan to work toward turning the office of francophone affairs into a ministry.
There’s been no change in the plan to eliminate the development of the French-language university.
More than 40 communities across Ontario plan to hold rallies over the course of the weekend to protest the programming cuts.
The Centre communautaire régional de London (CCRL) is organizing Saturday’s local demonstration.
“We have lots of people who do not speak French who see this as an injustice. They know people who speak French,” said Melody Pilon, CCRL’s community and cultural liason officer. “We want to encourage everyone and anyone to come support us.”
Pilon noted the francophone community has a right to speak, teach, and learn in French and the university represented that.
As for changing the structure of the commissioner’s office, Pilon also felt strongly.
“This is a pillar in the protection of our rights. If ever there’s an issue we can turn to them. We feel validated, we can be protected,” she said.
“Cutting these two programs (will) have a major impact on our future and our development.”
— With files from Jake Jeffrey and Jaclyn Carbone.