Cornwall French-speaking community celebrates Franco-Ontarian Day

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This year’s local celebrations of Franco-Ontarian Day were of a different kind, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the many health and safety measures having been put in place, local French-speaking residents were more than happy to show off their pride in their language. This included Cornwall City Mayor Bernadette Clement, which broadcasted a video from the city’s Francophone Monument, near the Cornwall Civic Complex.

“Today, we celebrate more than 400 years of French presence in Ontario,” she said. “This year, with the pandemic, we can’t celebrate together as usual to mark this special day. However, we can draw inspiration from our strength, as builders of communities. I am proud to be a Francophone.”

This day last year, and in previous years before that, saw hundreds of students from neighbouring French schools walk down Montreal Rd, proudly waving white and green flags, towards the Francophone Monument.

There was none of that this year — but celebrations were still hosted at schools across town. The province’s many French school boards also hosted several online celebrations, which features concerts and presentations.

“It is right and fitting to underline the solidarity of our city and the pride that we all feel as we appreciate a shared diversity which uplifts us all. In addition, Francophone Ontario and Cornwall itself have added new colors to our rainbow and we welcome them with gratitude.”

Locally, the SDG’s Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario (ACFO-SDG) assisted in presenting a virtual concert featuring Eastern Ontario’s very own Mélissa Ouimet. The concert was broadcasted in several of the city’s schools and was offered by PassepArt, a national microfinancing program for art, culture and heritage in schools.

It was also announced on Friday by the ACFO SDG that it had received a $20,000 grant from the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO).

The grant was distributed through a COVID-19 relief fund that is aimed at directly assisting non-profit organizations in reopening their operations. The grant is financed by FedDev Ontario.

“Since March, it’s been very difficult for the local community as well as its businesses and community organizations,” said ACFO-SDG President Dianne Poirier. “We want to thank both the AFO and FedDev Ontario for their help. The funds will help us in maintaining a viable French service in our community during the pandemic.”

Ontario’s Provincial government also announced on Friday, that starting on Sept. 28, Franco-Ontarians will be able to request a free replacement driver’s licence or Ontario Photo Card displaying their name using French language characters.

“I am so proud to announce on Franco-Ontarian Day that our government is adding French language characters to more provincial documents, beginning with driver’s licences and photo cards,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. “Ontario’s Francophone community will now see their identity reflected in these products through the use of proper French spelling and characters. This demonstrates our government’s ongoing commitment to supporting Ontario’s Francophonie.”