El­liot lake’s Fran­co­phone com­mu­nity makes voice heard on Ford cuts

The Standard (Elliot Lake) - - NEWS - By KEVIN MCSHEFFREY Of The Stan­dard

ap­prox­i­mately 70 peo­ple at­tended the protest in el­liot lake about on­tario Pre­mier doug Ford’s cut­ting of the Fran­co­phone lan­guage ser­vices com­mis­sioner and drop­ping on­tario’s planned French lan­guage univer­sity.

The protest took place at al­goma-man­i­toulin MPP michael man­tha’s con­stituency of­fice at 18 mary Walk at 11 a.m. on satur­day.

Ghis­laine des­jardins, pres­i­dent of rassem­ble­ment des as­so­ci­a­tions Fran­co­phone de l’on­tario - rive nord (rafo) [north shore as­so­ci­a­tion of on­tario Fran­co­phones], and man­tha ac­cused doug Ford and the Pro­gres­sive con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment of be­trayal.

des­jardins said when the Pre­mier “pre­tended” to backtrack on the Fran­co­phone lan­guage ser­vices com­mis­sioner is­sue and made an an­nounce­ment on the sub­ject it was late on a Fri­day af­ter­noon.

“but he didn’t backtrack. The role of the com­mis­sioner is not an om­buds­man. The com­mis­sioner has been work­ing with Franco-on­tar­i­ans for 10 years. he has served as an advisor to min­is­ters for 10 years. his job can­not just be given to the om­buds­man.”

she added that when a per­son calls the om­buds­man the per­son’s com­plaint is reg­is­tered. how­ever, when a per­son calls the com­mis­sioner, they get a re­sponse to the per­son mak­ing the com­plaint and he goes to see the min­is­ters in their of­fices and tells them how to deal with it the next time.

at the end of the year, the com­mis­sioner pro­duces a re­port for the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture.

“but tak­ing away his power, he is half an om­buds­man and use­less for us,” said des­jardins.

des­jardins told the crowd that they are just start­ing to protest the ac­tions of the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and they can ex­pect it will last more than a week.

“We won’t quit un­til the com­mis­sioner is back on the job, the real job.

“it’s not an om­buds­man we need, it’s an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sioner like we had.

“What Ford did two weeks ago is il­le­gal. There’s a law to pro­tect mi­nori­ties. We can’t pre­tend that it costs too much to re­spect a mi­nor­ity.”

she added that no gov­ern­ment in canada can says it costs too much to look af­ter a mi­nor­ity’s rights.

“We don’t want to have to go to court, but we do have the means to go to court, all the way to the supreme court, if nec­es­sary. i guar­an­tee it,” des­jardins said.

man­tha agreed with des­jardins and told the crowd “This is a be­trayal that the Ford gov­ern­ment did to Fran­co­phone com­mu­nity. What he did was a def­i­nite be­trayal to re­move the Fran­co­phone lan­guage ser­vices com­mis­sioner, and to take away our French lan­guage univer­sity.”

he said, “the Fran­co­phone youth worked very hard for many years to fi­nally have their voices heard (to get a French univer­sity), and showed up on the Queen’s Park lawn last year. We were very proud to fi­nally get it.”

man­tha added that Pre­mier doug Ford said that only three per cent of on­tario’s pop­u­la­tion are Fran­co­phones.

he said the ac­tual fig­ure is closer to 4.7%, and the Fran­co­phone pop­u­la­tion in on­tario is grow­ing.

“We will not quit, not un­til we fi­nally get our ser­vices. and we will take our place. That’s what we want in on­tario. We’re not ask­ing for more, and we won’t ac­cept any­thing less. We’re just ask­ing for equal­ity,” man­tha shouted to the crowd.

he said there are three found­ing peo­ple in this prov­ince and this coun­try: the english, the French and the indige­nous.

“This is not just about the Fran­co­phone com­mu­nity, this is also about mi­nor­ity rights. This is about on­tar­ian rights. This af­fects each and ev­ery on­tar­ian across the prov­ince.

“We are all hurt by th­ese de­ci­sions by the Ford gov­ern­ment. and when we stand to­gether this is the be­gin­ning of a move­ment. he’s wo­ken up a lion in this prov­ince. he’s wo­ken up a lion across this coun­try. This Ford gov­ern­ment is go­ing to hear us roar.”

man­tha said that when he is in the leg­is­la­ture he is proud to take his seat, and takes ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties to ad­dress the leg­is­la­ture in French.

“i never, ever, ever for­get who has given me the op­por­tu­nity to be where i am,” man­tha said.

des­jardins also read a let­ter from al­goma-man­i­toulin-ka­puskas­ing mp carol hughes.

hughes said Ford’s ac­tions “rep­re­sent a di­rect at­tack on the Fran­co­phones.

“it is un­ac­cept­able for the Pre­mier to break his prom­ises and to be­tray the Franco-on­tar­ian com­mu­nity; and for that the gov­ern­ment must be help li­able for their ac­tions. With this de­ci­sion, the gov­ern­ment has ig­nored the needs of more than 600,000 Franco-on­tar­i­ans.

“be­fore the elec­tion, mr. Ford an­nounced that he was in favour of the univer­sity, and he never in­di­cated it would de­pend on the fi­nances.”

hughes called on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to take ac­tion now to insure that both of­fi­cial lan­guages are pro­tected from coast to coast. They need to work with the prov­ince to main­tain the com­mis­sioner like they do for uni­ver­si­ties.“

The or­ga­niz­ers also had a pe­ti­tion telling the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment they want the Fran­co­phone lan­guage ser­vices com­mis­sioner brought back, and the on­tario’s French lan­guage univer­sity put back on track.

be­ing held at the same time as the el­liot lake Fire ser­vice’s christ­mas Food drive, or­ga­niz­ers asked those in at­ten­dance to bring a non-per­ish­able food item for the el­liot lake emer­gency Food bank. in ad­di­tion, rafo was to do­nate $1 for each per­son who at­tended the rally to the food bank.

Photo By KEVIN MCSHEFFREY/THE STAN­DARD

Close to 70 peo­ple at­tended a rally out­side of Al­goma-man­i­toulin MPP Michael Man­tha’s con­stituency of­fice on Satur­day morn­ing to protest Pre­mier Doug Ford’s gov­ern­ment cut­ting the Fran­co­phone lan­guage ser­vices com­mis­sioner and On­tario’s planned French lan­guage univer­sity.

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