A northern organization that helps French-speakers from Canada and elsewhere integrate in their new surroundings has won a top provincial award.
Health Minister Adrian Dix, who is also responsible for francophone affairs, awarded Le Cercle des Canadiens Français de Prince George with the B.C. Francophonie Day Award at a ceremony Thursday (March 9) in Victoria.
The award comes ahead Journée de la Francophonie in B.C., an annual celebration, which will be held on March 20.
“Thanks to Le Cercle des Canadiens Français de Prince George and their partners, French-speaking newcomers to B.C. are fully embraced in the local, provincial and national Francophonie,” Dix said.
The non-profit association has been supporting Francophones and Francophiles since 1960 through social-cultural events education and service offerings in French. Sarah Maurice, executive director of Le Cercle, said the award is a great recognition.
“The key to effective retention and settlement is being able to rely on a thriving community.”
Close to 200 people representing Francophone organizations from across British Columbia took part in the event.
“The burden is high on the Francophone community,” Dix said, adding that B.C. attracts not only French-speakers from other parts of Canada, but also from French-speaking countries in Europe and Africa.
These organizations help make B.C. a welcoming place, he added.
According to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, almost 60 per cent of francophones in B.C. were born elsewhere in Canada, while 12 per cent were born in B.C. and 28 per cent abroad.
Among those born abroad, 50 per cent were born in Europe, 22 per cent in Asia, 18 per cent in Africa and 10 per cent in the U.S.
According to Statistics Canada in 2021, some 57,000 British Columbians identified French as their mother tongue and close to 327,000 British Columbians have knowledge of both English and French.
Dix also announced $250,000 in on-going support for projects benefiting B.C.’s French-speaking population.
Thursday’s event was a bipartisanship affair, with BC Liberal Norm Letnick, MLA Kelowna-Lake Country, noting Dix as a champion of the French language. Dix was the former executive director of B.C. Parents for French and studied in France.
Letnick, who was born and raised in Montreal, held Dix’s role when the BC Liberals were in power.
Dix, meanwhile, praised Letnick’s French for being better than his.