On Wednesday, November 23, French for the Future celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Rideau Club in Ottawa. The evening began with a reception in the club’s lounge followed by a dinner interspersed with speeches.
In total, approximately one hundred people attended the festivities. Of particular note was the presence of the Minister of Official Languages, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, whose enthusiastic speech invigorated the audience. Other guests included the Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage Isabelle Mondou, Senator Percy Mockler, Parliamentary Secretary for Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Darrell Samson, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages René Arseneault, Official Opposition Official Languages Critic Joël Godin, Lena Metlege Diab, MP for Halifax West and former Minister of Acadian Affairs and Francophonie for Nova Scotia; Bernard Généreux, MP for Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup; and Jacques Gourde, MP for Lévis-Lobinière. The 6th Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, was also present, and, as he was unable to attend the event, the current Commissioner Raymond Théberge had prepared a video message that was shared with the guests during the evening.
The evening included speeches by John Ralston Saul and Lisa Balfour Bowen, founder of French for the Future; Ania Kolodziej, President of the Board of Directors and Emeline Leurent, Executive Director.
President Ania Kolodziej noted the continuing importance of organizations like French for the Future. “Today, French for the Future’s mission remains vital to achieving a bilingual Canada
.” she said. “It is thanks to the tireless work of organizations like French for the Future, supported by government investments, and also supported by the general public, that Canadian bilingualism will be able to keep the wind in its sails and even flourish.”
The dinner was also punctuated by touching bilingual testimonials from youth who have participated in French for the Future’s programs. These young people impressed attendees with their dedication to French, their motivation to make a difference and their belief in the future of bilingualism.
Peter Noel, a Newfoundland native, 2019 French for the Future Ambassador, 2019-2020 National Essay Contest scholarship winner, and 2019-2020 United Bilingual Correspondents program participant, says, “Why did I become so devoted to bilingualism despite the multitude of opportunities in my home province that do not require it? I did so because bilingualism opens not only professional doors, but personal doors too. By learning a second language, I have added another tool to my skill set that allows me to better make social and cross-cultural connections. My ability to be open to the world is further advanced by being able to better empathize with an important population in global society: the French-speaking population.”
“The National Ambassador Youth Forum in Regina has given me more than enough energy to try to build a truly bilingual Canada. And I am more than confident that by working together, the youth and the many organizations can build the bilingual Canada of our dreams,” testifies Noe Randriambola, French for the Future Ambassador 2022, who arrived in Canada only 8 months ago.
Isabelle Melanson, from Nova Scotia, remains positive about the future of French “In Canada, we have already made so much progress since the Official Languages Act in 1969. We have gone from 12.2% of bilingual people in 1961 to 17.9% in 2016. I hope that this number will continue to grow and one day will exceed the majority.” She explains. “This is where organizations like French for the Future are so beneficial. They are helping increase this number by encouraging young people like me to become and stay bilingual.”
Following the speeches of the young participants, Executive Director Emeline Leurent emphasized, “They understood that bilingualism is the foundation of Canadian social cohesion and diversity, that it shows respect and appreciation for different cultures, and is an inexhaustible source of cultural richness. It is this spark that we seek to create through all French for the Future programs.”
The improvisation group, Improtéine, livened up the evening with their humor and songs and concluded the event with a preview of their improvisation show.
French for the Future, founded in 1997 by John Ralston Saul and Lisa Balfour Bowen, continues to provide opportunities to inspire young Canadians to communicate in both official languages and to persevere in their learning of French. Thanks to its dedicated teams, the organization has been able to develop varied programs that continue to grow each year, accompanying young people at key moments in their high school careers.