You may be unaware that September 25 is Franco-Ontario Day, an occasion to honour the history and community around French-speaking Ontarians. Since this year’s Frano-Ontario Day falls on Sunday, there was an early commemoration on Friday at Guelph City Hall. Local politicians were joined by over 100 students from Guelph’s two French language schools as they literally let their French flag fly.
“In the last census over 1,700 people in Guelph identified French as a mother tongue and 14,000 people said they have knowledge of French,” said the obviously bilingual (see below) Ward 6 Councillor Dominique O’Rourke. “Here in the region, our French community has been a major partner in the development of the region with leaders in every sector, including business, academia, arts and politics.”
Mayor Cam Guthrie was also on hand for the raising of the Franco-Ontario flag calling it one of his favourite occasions of the year. Although he didn’t show off his own French-language skills, he did help lead the students in a stirring rendition of the French version of the Happy Birthday song for one of the students.
“I love raising the flag and raising awareness of our French community here, and especially the school system, the teachers and the parents and everybody else that brings us together to celebrate this,” Guthrie said. “It’s been hard to do this in-person the last couple of years, so it’s great to see all of you here as we raise the flag.”
Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner was a little more flashy with the French, showing off some of the language skills he’s developed in the last couple of years with his own French lessons.
“I was asked to go to Queens Park to be a part of the flag raising ceremony that’s happening right now, and when I heard that all of you were coming to City Hall today, I said, ‘No way!’ I was going to go to Guelph City Hall and hang out with each and every one of you so we could raise the Franco-Ontario flag together,” Schreiner said.
The green and white flag was created by Gaétan Gervais and Michel Dupuis. The colours were chosen to represent the two poles of the Ontario climate; green for summer and white for winter. The green ban is marked with a white fleur-de-lis to represent the French-speaking community worldwide, while the white band has a green trillium, the provincial flower of Ontario. The flag was raised for the first time on September 25, 1975, making this the 47th anniversary of its first raising.
The students at the flag raising were from St. René Goupil and L’Odyssée.
Check out the video of the speeches, including comments from teachers and students, below:
***Correction: The students were not “French Immersion” as stated in a previous version of this article.