Statement by French Language Services Commissioner Kelly Burke for International Francophonie Day

Statement by French Language Services Commissioner Kelly Burke for International Francophonie Day

March 20, 2020

20 March, 2020

Today marks the 50th International Francophonie Day. Did you know that French is the fifth most spoken language in the world? According to the International Organization of La Francophonie, which brings together 88 states and governments including Ontario, approximately 300 million people on five continents speak French.

(TORONTO, March 20, 2020) – Today marks the 50th International Francophonie Day. Did you know that French is the fifth most spoken language in the world? According to the International Organization of La Francophonie, which brings together 88 states and governments including Ontario, approximately 300 million people on five continents speak French.

Ontario's francophonie is a reflection of the international francophonie: 1.5 million people in the province report speaking French. Of those, according to the inclusive definition, 622,415 are francophones. We are of diverse origins: From here in Ontario, elsewhere in Canada, France, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritius, Vietnam, Haiti and many other places.

Ontario is a destination of choice for francophones who want to live in French and put their language skills to work to contribute actively to the social, cultural, political and economic development of our province.

A few weeks ago, I began a tour of different regions of the province to meet with Ontario’s francophones. My objective is to get to know their stories, ambitions, successes and ideas so that Ontario’s society continues to be welcoming, inclusive and proud of its francophonie. Our province’s growth, both economic and social, depends on us all contributing to positive outcomes.

During this tour, I heard great concerns highlighting the urgent need for a strong bilingual workforce able to provide French language services. I heard government agencies looking for best practices to improve their offer of French language services. I heard leaders in the francophone community eager to share their expertise on the needs of francophones in the province.

This is what Ontario's francophonie is all about: Vibrant, dynamic and open, representing great opportunities and constantly looking for new ones.

The francophone community in Ontario is also a minority; however, this is not a sign of weakness. A minority is comprised of strong people with convictions who, when faced with adversity, are resilient and will persevere.

As Ontario’s Commissioner of French Language Services and a Franco-Ontarian, I want to ensure that dialogue, collaboration and opportunities are possible, and that the French language is recognized as an asset in our province.

I also want to ensure that our francophone community remains strong and able to participate actively in the province's growth. Over the past few weeks, I had productive and stimulating conversations with the Ministry of Health, Public Health Ontario and Telehealth Ontario, which are leading the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus in the province. From our conversations, they signalled that they are well aware of the importance of a strong offer of French language services.

This virus is affecting all private and public areas of our society – our work and family, our health, our lifestyle and our economy. Complex times like these show the importance of having a robust offer of services that allows Ontarians to be served in English or French.

We all have a responsibility – sometimes legal, sometimes moral – whether we are a government, an agency, a municipality or a private company, to be proactive in planning and organizing our services in both languages.

I invite each and every one of us to make a conscious effort to ensure that everyone can contribute fully to our society here in Ontario, and that we can benefit from the great opportunities that the French language brings to our province.

I remain committed, present and determined to support you, should you not be satisfied with the services you receive. The French Language Services Unit of the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman remains available to deal with any complaint. Our office and phone lines are currently closed due to COVID-19, but our staff are working from home and will do their best to respond to complaints filed via our online complaint form. Complaints about French language services can also be emailed to sf-fls@ombudsman.on.ca as usual.