[OPINION] Canada celebrates International Day of La Francophonie

Peter MacArthur

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[OPINION] Canada celebrates International Day of La Francophonie

Illustration by DR Castuciano

Francophones, or those that speak French as their first language, account for almost one quarter of the Canadian population

Every March 20th, Francophones and Francophiles around the world, including in Canada, celebrate the International Day of La Francophonie.  

Not everyone is aware that Canada benefits from the richness of having two official languages and cultures: French and English.

French is an essential component of Canada, our history, and our heritage. It is also an invaluable asset for our future. Francophones, or those that speak French as their first language, account for almost one quarter of the Canadian population, or a little over 8 million people. Although Francophones live in every province and territory in Canada, most French speakers live in Quebec, the only province in the country in which they form the majority of citizens (85.4%). 

French is Canada’s second official language. A little over 10 million Canadians today say they can hold a conversation in French. Our large community of Francophones and Francophiles (those who admire the French language and culture) is at the core of Canadian national identity.

This annual celebration commemorates the creation of the institution of La Francophonie, which serves as a place for solidarity among French-speaking countries and as a recognized force in international relations.

It is an opportunity to recognize Canada’s leadership in La Francophonie, which is comprised of a community of 88 member states and governments representing over one billion people worldwide, including 300 million French speakers. This grouping represents a force for cultural soft power. 

The day is also marked well beyond the French-speaking world, in over 100 countries on five continents. Canada’s participation in La Francophonie is also an opportunity to showcase our commitment to the French language and to the diversity of French culture, and to highlight the vigor and vitality of French-speaking communities around the world. Let us remember the important role played by La Francophonie in promoting peace, democracy, human rights, and sustainable development, and the central role that women, youth, and vulnerable people play in its initiatives.

Canada joins the global celebration of La Francophonie by taking part in a variety of activities in the month of March. Here in the Philippines, we are partnering with the Alliance Française, universities offering International Studies courses, and other diplomatic missions, to organize activities that raise the visibility of the French culture, and strengthen cooperation networks with partners who promote La Francophonie with the French language and culture at its heart. 

La Francophonie is an important forum that makes a significant contribution to the search for solutions for major international challenges that affect the Francophone world as part of its four key missions: the French language and cultural and linguistic diversity; peace, democracy and human rights; education, and research and sustainable development; and the economy and solidarity.

Canada exercises constructive leadership in La Francophonie and supports the implementation of its initiatives, through our annual contributions, which in 2019-2020 totalled nearly $46 million, making Canada the second largest donor to La Francophonie.

Canada’s participation within La Francophonie is strengthened by the commitment of several Canadian provinces: Quebec, the heart of Francophone culture in the Americas; New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in Canada; and Ontario, the province with the largest Francophone minority community. I invite you to visit the website of our Department of Canadian Heritage to know more about our Francophone culture.

Canada’s commitment to La Francophonie is deep and is rooted in the French language, culture, and the values that we share.  

Bonne Journée internationale de la Francophonie! –

Peter MacArthur is Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines. 

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