This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending the Annual General Assembly of RÉFO (Regroupement étudiant franco-ontarien). Friday, I, along with my fellow eAmbassador Francette and two other Glendonites, Galvin and Khem drove up to Ottawa to represent Glendon in this meeting to discuss the coming year for this organization which advocates for the improvement of resources for Franco-ontarian students.
RÉFO is made up of the different bilingual and French post-secondary institutions of Ontario including University of Ottawa, Laurentian University, University of Sudbury, La Cité collégiale, Collège Boréal, University of Hearst, Alfred College, St. Paul University, Domincan College and OISE at University of Toronto. With 56 of us representing our schools, we discussed the problems facing Franco-ontarian students in today’s PSE (post-secondary education) environment, solutions and the future of Franco-ontarian education. As an Anglophone/Francophile, I was definitely a minority at this meeting, but an important one as I brought to the table the viewpoint of Anglophones that are studying in these bilingual/french PSE institutions.
So the big question is, what’s the point? Why should we be concerned about the future of French education in Ontario? (Just to clarify when RÉFO talks about French education, it doesn’t just mean teaching French in PSE institutions. It also means teaching IN French.)
The Franco-Ontarian population is often overlooked, but it is a large and important one in our society. They are the largest Franco-Canadian population outside of Quebec and are vital to ensuring that the bilingualism in Canada continues and is strengthened. Numerous of these Franco-Ontarians also grow up learning and speaking French so by the time they enter and are leaving university they are fully bilingual and may even decide to take up a third language. (Just ask Krista; She’s taken Spanish while at Glendon!) This makes them perfect candidates to get involved in domestic politics, education and even international politics.
However if they aren’t able to continue their education in French throughout post-secondary institutions, than there is fear that they might lose their French. This is where RÉFO comes in; advocating and ensuring the bilingual and French institutions maintain a high standard for their programs, that resources are provided in French for those that want it, and also to help continue our nation’s tradition of working to be bilingual in all aspects of our society. One way that RÉFO is working towards this is by currently asking people to sign their petition that is demanding that the Ontario government reinstate la bourse pour étudier en français, which was cancelled this year to fund the 30% off tuition rebate that OSAP is providing now. This bursary was the only government funded financial aid for those studying French. Not only did it benefit Franco-Ontarians who were studying in their mother tongue but also encourage others to do the same; like me, an Anglophone student who is majoring in French. You can sign the petition here!
As a French major, I want to ensure that I am receiving the best education possible; one that I believe comes from a bilingual institution that strives to be the best. RÉFO is actively fighting to ensure all bilingual/French institutions are on par with the Anglophone universities in respects to their offerings of program, the quality of their professors and education, and the resources provided.
Soyez fièrs et fières d’etre franco-ontarien et franco-ontarienne!