Notes for an Address on the Occasion of the Rendez-vous du Réseau des villes francophones et francophiles d’Amérique

Dieppe, New Brunswick, August 15, 2019
Raymond Théberge - Commissioner of Official Languages

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Beginning of dialog

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

It’s a great pleasure for me to speak today at the Rendez-vous des villes francophones et francophiles d'Amérique. I’m happy to be back in the Atlantic region, which I’m very fond of. It means a lot to me to celebrate Acadia's national holiday with you and attend this symposium today.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is part of the traditional and unceded territory of the Maliseet and Mi’kmaq. Today, these Indigenous peoples are a vital part of New Brunswick society, which boasts a rich Indigenous, French Acadian, and British Loyalist heritage. It is the heartland of burgeoning cultural diversity and Canadian reality.

This year’s theme, la francophonie et la francophilie au cœur de nos collectivités, concerns Francophone spaces. Whether in Grande Prairie, Hearst, Campbellton, Lafayette or Lewiston-Auburn, the creation of these spaces is essential to a dynamic, vibrant and flourishing Francophonie and Francophilie.

In Canada, the federal government, provinces and territories play an essential role in creating these spaces and promoting la francophonie. However, the way Canadians live their language is also greatly informed by the decisions of municipal governments.

The Official Languages Act aims to ensure that the federal institutions are able to provide services and communications to English- and French-speaking Canadians in the language of their choice.

This means that members of the public have the right to access the information and data made available by open government, participate and communicate with federal institutions, all in the official language of their choice.

I encourage every federal institution that participates in this initiative to set objectives that align with its linguistic obligations, in order to be able to communicate and serve the public in both French and English.

Municipalities, as a level of government very close to people in their daily lives, through the provision of services and the organization of recreational and community activities, contribute greatly to the creation of these spaces. Your leadership can enable your citizens to live and showcase their francophonie in their communities.

As an example of municipal leadership, Moncton is the first city in Canada to have declared itself officially bilingual. This historic decision, which dates back to 2002, reflects Moncton's commitment to promoting the Francophonie and serving its population in French. I would also like to acknowledge the leadership of the Dieppe City Council, where we are gathered today, in adopting its municipal by‑law on bilingual signage, which specifies the priority given to French. There is no doubt that signage is essential to the creation of Francophone spaces.

It’s also by creating these Francophone spaces that we can benefit from the economic advantages of bilingualism, as showed in the most recent study by my counterpart, the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, on the economic impacts of bilingualism in the province. With its two official languages, New Brunswick generates $1.5 billion in annual revenues through sectors such as customer service and administrative support, on top of employing more than 15,000 people. Other studies have also shown that bilingualism drives the Canadian economy as a whole.

In fact, the rise of Canadian society is linked to the promotion of greater visibility and use of the French language, which is spoken by more than 274 million people on five continents. The number of French speakers across the globe is constantly growing. French is a valuable asset, and it’s up to us to come together to promote our language not only across Canada, but also across the world.

Therefore, the Francophonie at the international level offers countless opportunities to all governments interested in it. Networks, such as this one, can serve as a catalyst to increase collaboration and create lasting relationships to foster cultural, economic and social development.

Thank you for your attention.

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