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Internet Links Canadian Francophone Communities

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 02 December 2003 00:00

Quebec is the acknowledged Francophone centre of Canada, but French-speaking communities are not confined to that province. If you want to use French for real estate transactions and daily property management issues, your choices may be limited, but a closer look at a map of Canada reveals that each province and territory has Francophone communities, however small:

  • British Columbia has had a Francophone presence since 1793, but Franco-Columbians represent only about 1.4 per cent of the population, with a concentration in Vancouver.

  • The Northwest Territories have had French residents since 1786 and today have a population of approximately 1,000 Francophones.

  • Ontario's Francophone community, the largest French-speaking population outside Quebec, numbers 548,940 (Statistics Canada - 2001 census) and represents five per cent of the province's population. On top of its 350-year history with French, Ontario continues to welcome Francophones from around the world, including Europe, the West Indies, Asia and Africa. There are about 44 Ontario municipalities that officially offer their services in French.

    The National Committee for Canadian Francophonie Human Resources Development consists of active members of Francophone and Acadian communities in Canada as well as representatives of federal economic departments. Its mandate is to provide advice in order to influence the policies, programs and services of the federal signatories to foster the development and enhanced vitality of the French linguistic minority communities in Canada.

    Across Canada, other organizations also work to support Francophone communities. For instance, in Ontario, the Office of Francophone Affairs , created under the French Language Services Act, is the Ontario Government's main source of expertise on Francophone affairs and French-language services. It provides information on the province's French-speaking population to other levels of government and the public, and co-ordinates the government-wide delivery of French-language services in the 23 areas designated under the French Language Services Act.

    West of Ontario, the small, dispersed pockets of French-speaking minorities have two important challenges they must regularly confront:

    1. Resisting assimilation in an English-speaking environment that challenges the integrity of Francophone culture and language, and

    2. Establishing a support network for all French minorities in Western Canada, most of whom are geographically isolated from each other.

    The Internet is a valuable resource to French culture on many levels.

    Thanks to Canada's Digital Collections (CDC) , some Francophone communities are able to widely distribute information on French-speaking services and publish their local history in digital format on the Internet at reasonable costs. Groups of Francophone students have digitized archives, highlighted historical figures, offered research tools and posted itinerary of activities to learn more about their French heritage and share knowledge.

    French-speaking communities west of Ontario have produced four digital collections which include: Manitoba en Filigranes, Saskatchewan Francophone Collections and The Willow Bunch Museum and its Historical Figures. Others are currently in production.

    The CDC project allowed the Francophone students to work in a French-speaking environment, an unusual and important opportunity for the students that helps them preserve their culture and their first language. This project also reminds Canadians of our history from the early French settlements in Western Canada to the present.

    Here are a few other Canadian organizations that are working to ensure the Internet provides French content of the highest quality to our communities:

  • The Commissioner of Official Languages produces reports and special studies on the use of Canada's official languages, including their use on the Internet.

  • The Francommunautés virtuelles program supports creating applications, services and content in French on the Internet, promoting networking among Francophone communities in Canada, stimulating the growth of the French-Canadian multimedia industry, and maintaining and developing Canadian Francophone communities through the use of information and communications technologies.

  • The Centre international pour le développement de l'inforoute en français , which advises the international French-speaking community on information-technology applications, particularly in the field of education.

    If you want access to French for everything from real estate transactions to daily living issues, the Internet may be a powerful tool.

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