Francophone education barely visible in the election campaign | Alberta Elections 2023

Francophone education barely visible in the election campaign | Alberta Elections 2023

Francophone education not very visible in the electoral campaign | Élections Alberta 2023

The major Francophone issues such as access to education in French and the continuity of courses after high school are absent from the electoral campaign. (File photo)

While health, the economy and the cost of living are at the heart of campaign promises ahead of Alberta's May 29 election, they are many point out that francophone education is a much less addressed issue.

Shannon Phillips, the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate for the riding of Lethbridge West, is one of the few hopefuls to have made a promise: $2 million a year for Campus Saint-Jean, the only French-language postsecondary institution in the province.

Our commitment [in favor of the campus] is $6 million over three years, the director of relations said Thursday. party media, Malissa Dunphy, in an email.

However, elementary and post-secondary education is a priority for Francophone families. They face multiple obstacles, including access to education in French, the equivalence of French-speaking education with that of the English-speaking majority and continuity of studies after high school.

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According to Tanya Saumure, president of the Federation of Francophone School Boards of Alberta, the parties have been aware of these issues for a long time. However, they still seem not to have understood the reality and the rights of Francophones in a minority setting.

“We are constantly trying to educate provincial, municipal or local elected officials [about] the right to French-language education. »

— Tanya Saumure, President, Federation of Francophone School Boards

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Tanya Saumure, President of the Federation of School Boards francophones in Alberta.

Dan Williams, Conservative candidate in the riding of Peace River, says he has been defending francophone education for a long time. On the show Le Café Show, he promises to continue on this path, because Francophone education is so important for our province. However, there is no concrete election promise from his party on this subject.

Principal of École Michaëlle-Jean in Edmonton, Haboon Osman-Hachi was on the school benches when she understood that in Alberta, you had to fight to keep your Francophone identity. Born in Montreal, she came to Alberta at the age of 13. She then remembers writing letters to the Ministry of Education to defend the rights of Franco-Albertans.

“ There are those who have been fighting for a long time, before I was born. […] We thank these people, and it is our turn to take up the torch, because the risk is to be assimilated, to disappear. It is a daily struggle. »

— Haboon Osman-Hachi, Principal of École Michaëlle-Jean, Edmonton

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Haboon Osman -Hachi, principal of the École francophone Michaëlle-Jean, in Edmonton.

Tanya Saumure highlights the difficulties of access to education in French in Alberta.

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“I went to school in Edmonton and I was on the bus for three hours a day. […] My daughter, who is 16, goes to the same school and also travels three hours. »

— Tanya Saumure, President, Fédération des Conseils scolaire francophones

Currently, 43 French-language schools serve nearly 9,000 students in Alberta.

However, the latest Statistics Canada census identified 67,000 children who would be eligible for French-language education services in the province, 50,000 of whom are of school age.

It is certain that 67,000, we will not get them all, but we would have to go and get a large part to end assimilation, says Tanya Saumure. She points out that regions without schools or students to learn French “make room for assimilation”.

In any case, for French-language school boards, these statistics mean that new schools must be built where the needs are greatest.

Danielle Smith's Conservative government has announced last March the construction of three buildings that will house French-language schools in Edmonton and Airdrie, while another school will be expanded in Lethbridge.

The NDP has pledged to invest $700 million in education over four years, but that is to hire additional teachers.

Furthermore, the he Association canadienne-francaise de l'Alberta (ACFA) calls on Franco-Albertans to vote next Monday. To this end, it has launched the My Francophonie Matters! I vote !

“Your vote lets you speak out on the issues that matter to you. If, like us, your Francophonie matters, I invite you to include it in your reflection and on your ballot. »

— Pierre Asselin, President of the ACFA

This campaign was preceded by another entitled Say hello! , which encourages French-speaking Albertans to engage with provincial election candidates in French.

With information from Anne Levasseur