Reception with the Francophone Community of Winnipeg
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Saint-Boniface, Saturday, June 18, 2011
Good morning and thank you for welcoming me into your community. The Francophone culture in Manitoba has a rich history, one that is integral to the province.
Your ancestors were some of the first settlers in this province, and they built a life here for subsequent generations to thrive.
The French language is so important to Canadians; it is part of our national identity. In the 1800s, Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, along with an ardent supporter in Robert Baldwin, fought for French rights and for the opportunity for French culture to survive and grow in a united Canada.
When Manitoba entered into Confederation in 1870, it was the influence and insistence of the French population that allowed it to declare itself a bilingual province, reflecting its diversity and strong French presence.
Although the Francophone population declined in the years that followed, they never lost their pride and never lost their language, passing it on at home even when French was not taught at school.
Today, so many Manitobans are proud to call themselves bilingual, and not only those of French descent. People have recognized the advantages of speaking both French and English in order to communicate better with others in the province and across Canada. With today’s more globalized society, we must ensure that we retain the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed no matter where we are.
In 2017, our country will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. This milestone is a perfect opportunity to ask ourselves not only what the country we desire will look like, but also what the state of bilingualism in Canada should be. How can we ensure that the French language and culture remain active and grow in today’s world?
I have set out three pillars for my mandate that I believe are vital to today’s world and to the continuation of a strong, bilingual country: supporting families and children; encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism; and reinforcing learning and innovation.
Each of these pillars is linked to the call of service set forth by the French settlers who came to Manitoba with the dream of preserving and passing down their heritage.
All of you here today have answered that call and kept the community flourishing throughout the years; you know the importance of service, of helping the French language grow beyond the borders of this community, and of celebrating your legacy and your place within Manitoba.
We strive for a smart and caring nation, where all Canadians can succeed, contribute and develop their talents to their fullest potential.
A healthy and vibrant French language and culture are an important part of this vision. I know that Francophones in Manitoba take special pride in the vitality of French language education here.
I am so honoured to follow a number of my predecessors as governor general to honour the Francophone community in Manitoba.
Your perseverance is so indicative of the determination displayed by supporters of French culture across the country. You help to define our country, and I commend you for this and for all that you do.