Lisa Balfour Bowen
Lisa Balfour Bowen, Founding President of French for the Future, is a former Canadian journalist who served as a political correspondent in the province of Quebec and as an art critic in the city of Toronto. During her 35-year career, her articles appeared in The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, The Gazette, Montreal Star, Maclean’s, Canadian Art and a variety of other publications including Southam newspaper across Canada.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario and educated at the University of Toronto, the Sorbonne and Harvard, Ms. Balfour Bowen has had a long interest in and commitment to bilingualism and biculturalism. She translated five volumes of the 1960s Parent Report on (Quebec) Education into English, was the first female Anglophone political correspondent appointed to the National Assembly Press Gallery in Quebec City (1967-69) and worked as a bilingual policy advisor to the Government of Ontario’s Federal-Provincial Affairs Secretariat under Premiers John Robarts and Bill Davis (1969 to 1972). During this time, she helped establish, expand and co-ordinate bilingualism and biculturalism programs in Ontario for the Ontario-Québec Permanent Commission.
In the 1960s, Ms. Balfour Bowen reported on political and social issues for the now defunct Montreal Star. She was later appointed political correspondent in Quebec City’s National Assembly for the Southam newspapers across Canada and wrote about such seminal Quebec political figures as Jean Lesage, Daniel Johnson Sr., Robert Bourassa, René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau, Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Jean Chrétien.
Ms. Balfour Bowen helped found French for the Future thanks to an idea conceived by internationally known author, John Ralston Saul, in the aftermath of the 1995 Quebec referendum. She organized and presided over the first French for the Future program which was held at Toronto City Hall in 1997 attended by 200 students from eight schools. Today, almost 20 years later, Ms. Balfour Bowen continues to maintain an active role in the operation of the organization. Thanks, in great part, to her continuing efforts, French for the Future has grown dramatically over the years with annual forums now reaching over 3,000 students in 16 major cities across Canada, as well as the National Ambassador Youth Forum, the National Essay Contest and Franconnexion Sessions, reaching a total of over 8 000 students per year.
In 2001, Ms. Balfour Bowen received the internationally recognized Ordre de la Pléiade for her efforts to promote the French language and culture plus serve the ideals of la Francophonie. That same year, she was awarded the Ordre du Mérite francophile, an annual award given by the Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario (provinciale). In 2002, she received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for her contributions to Canada and, in 2004, she was appointed a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Republic for her efforts to promote the French language and culture. In June 2008, Laurentian University conferred an Honorary Doctorate on Ms. Balfour Bowen. This doctorate was awarded in recognition of her efforts to promote bilingualism – and particularly the French language – across Canada. In June 2012, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal and was made a Senior Fellow of Massey College at the University of Toronto. In May 2015, she received an honorary doctorate from the Université Sainte-Anne in Church Point, Nova Scotia.
Ms. Balfour Bowen is a former director of the Toronto French School and the Alliance Française de Toronto. She also helped found and/or establish the Toronto Arts Awards, Tarragon Theatre (Toronto) and the Friends of the Library, Trinity College (Toronto). She also served as an Ontario governor of the now defunct Canadian Unity Council.
Ms. Balfour Bowen is married to Toronto lawyer Walter M. Bowen and has two bilingual children, Arabella and Staunton.