Statement made on 25 March 2009 by Senator Maria Chaput
Hon. Maria Chaput:
Honourable senators, March 20, 2009 was the International Day of La Francophonie, a day when we celebrate both the vitality of the French language around the world and the anniversary of the founding of the international organization that promotes the French language: the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
On March 20, 1970, in Niamey, Niger, representatives of Canada and 20 other francophone states and governments signed the treaty that created the Agence de coopération culturelle et technique, which has become the OIF.
The OIF consists of 56 member states and governments and 14 observers around the world that share French as a common language.
Spoken by more than 200 million people worldwide, French is the sole official language or one official language of 32 OIF member states and governments.
In Canada, French is an official language. It has equal status, equal rights and equal privileges, as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Canada has more than 9 million French speakers, more than 9 million people who can communicate in the language of Molière.
In the early 17th century, French colonists began settling the land that would later become Canada. The first French colonists settled on St. Croix Island in New Brunswick, then in Port Royal, in what is known today as the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. With the founding of Quebec City in 1608, the French colonists began settling the shores of the St. Lawrence, first in small numbers, then in larger waves. Today, the city of Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world.
These first French speakers in Canada gradually migrated west and north. Today, minority francophone communities can be found in every province and territory.
Over the years, these early French settlers were joined by francophones from all over the world — Lebanon, Haiti, the Central African Republic, Senegal, Cambodia, Belgium, Switzerland and elsewhere — who enriched and bolstered French Canadian culture.
More than 80 per cent of Canadians support national bilingualism. Moreover, increasing numbers of Canadians are learning French as a second language and see it as a cultural, social and economic asset. Canadians are right to see their French language, a language bequeathed to them by history, as a boon and something that deserves to be promoted and celebrated with pride.
Together, let's celebrate the future of the French fact in Canada. Together, let's celebrate the place of French in the world.