Members of the Franco-Ontarian community are speaking up about the province’s latest economic statement.
The province will eliminate the position of the French Language Services Commissioner and plans to build a French language university have also been scrapped. The Ford government says the moves are part of a plan to balance the budget.
But the decisions are not sitting well with everyone. Serge Miville, an assistant professor and the Franco-Ontarian history research chair at Laurentian University, is one of the authors of an editorial letter, which will be published in the Globe and Mail.
“If we start saying that budget cuts are a reason to take away these rights, where’s the line?” he says.
The editorial, titled ‘Francophobia’s Populist New Attire’, states Premier Doug Ford and Finance Minister, Vic Fedeli are “multiplying the attacks on historic francophone communities under the guise of fiscal restraint.”
Miville says it’s important to speak up.
“If nobody resists what’s happening right now, then what’s next?” he questions.
“If we don’t say no right now, that this is unacceptable, my fear is that we normalize phobia against the French language in Ontario.”
Constitutional rights at risk, MPP says
The topic came up at Queen’s Park during question period on Monday. The NDP’s francophone affairs critic and Mushkegowuk-James Bay MPP Guy Bourgouin says the decision puts the constitutional rights of Franco-Ontarians in peril.
“By eliminating the French Languages Services Commissioner’s officer and the Francophone University of Ontario, the Ford Conservatives are telling us clearly that we do not count, that our constitutional rights to be served and educated in French are unimportant,” he says.
“What can the Ford government tell people in my riding, where more than six out of 10 speak French, about eliminating the only office defending their rights and cancelling the university project for which that have fought for over four decades?”
The minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, Caroline Mulroney, says the services of the French Language Services Commissioner will be done by the Ombudsman’s office.
“All of the work that he is doing, including the investigations into complaints, all of the recommendations will continue to be done,” she says.
“We have full confidence in the Ombudsman.”