Throughout the course of history, flags are sometimes considered symbolic of struggle. The Franco-Ontarian flag (which has come to represent Ontario residents whose native tongue is French), is no stranger to struggle. The first time that the flag flew was on September 25, 1975, at Laurentian University in Sudbury. Unfortunately, it wasn’t officially recognized until 2001 and the first Franco-Ontarian Day was declared on September 25, 2010.
On Monday September 25, 2017, the Franco-Ontarian flag was raised for the first time outside the North Grenville Municipal Centre (NGMC) in a special ceremony. Back in 2010, the Municipal Council of the day (which included current Deputy Mayor Barb Tobin and former Councillor Tim Sutton) voted to reject flying it outside. This rejection is vividly remembered by current French Catholic School Board Trustee, Anouk Tremblay, who (along with Clarice Lulai Angi) approached the then-mayor about having the flag flown outside the NGMC. Other municipalities in the area, including Merrickville, had no problem flying the Franco-Ontarian flag.
According to the 2016 Census, residents whose native tongue is French make up almost six percent of the population of North Grenville. Not surprisingly, there are now two French language schools operating in Kemptville, Ecole Elementaire Publique Riviere-Rideau and Ecole Elementaire Catholique Sainte Marguerite Bourgeois, which are both located on the campus of the former Kemptville College. Enrolment in both schools is growing rapidly.
It was very fitting that both schools had many of their students in attendance for this important occasion, along with parents, teachers, and representatives from both school boards. All members of Municipal Council were present, along with others, including employees of the municipality. Linda Savard, the Chair of the French Public School Board and Trustee Tremblay gave speeches to commemorate the special day, and Councillor Jim Bertram made a short speech in French. As the flag was raised, the Franco-Ontarian anthem was played on a keyboard and sung by many of the attendees.
It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day for the flag raising. One would hope that the future is also bright for both schools and the rest of the francophone population in North Grenville. It’s taken a long time to be recognized formally, but hopefully this will become a tradition for a long time to come. Trustee Tremblay hoped that events like this would mean that more francophones would embrace and celebrate their heritage.