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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 4, January/February 2007

A chronology of
French-as-a-first-language education in BC

by Pierre Blouin

French people have been in BC for many years and all along they have demanded that their children receive a French education. Even though some francophone students were able to attend classes conducted in French earlier, it was only in 1982, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted, that it became a constitutional right for francophone parents to have their children educated in French anywhere in Canada. (Note: The francophone program is completely different from French immersion. The provincial government has an obligation to provide a francophone program but French immersion remains an option.)

1793 Alexander McKenzie’s expedition: 6 of his 10 crew members were French Canadian (Doucette, Landry, Beaulieux, Bisson, Beauchamp, and Contois).

1807 A group of French Canadians founded Fort George, today Prince George.

1840–42 125 people of European origin lived in Fort Victoria: 25 were English, 100 were French Canadian.

1848 The Hudson’s Bay Company opened a French school for its employees. The company still used French in its communications.

1848–49 The religious French schools served Aboriginal, Métis, and francophone children.

1860–90 The French clergy, nuns (Soeurs Sainte-Anne de Québec) and priests, established schools around the province (Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Mission, Williams Lake, Kamloops, and Cranbrook). The only way for French Canadians to have their children educated in French was to finance their own school.

1910 The first French school opened in Maillardville, Coquitlam.

1951 The two French Catholic schools of Maillardville went on strike to demand free transportation, school books, and financing.

1954 The municipality of Coquitlam asked that 44 years of tax arrears be paid. The schools and the churches were seized by the government.

1967 The Premier of BC, W.A.C. Bennett, declared that there would never be French public schools in the province.

1977 More than 100 years after the creation of a public school system, the government recognized the right of francophones to be educated in French.

1979 The francophone program (then known as "programme cadre") was established in BC: 232 students were registered in nine school districts.

1982 Adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which recognizes the right of Canadians to be educated in their mother tongue wherever they reside in Canada.

1983 Opening of école Anne-Hébert school in Vancouver, the first French stand-alone school in BC.

1986 Creation of a new BCTF provincial specialist association: Association provinciale des professeurs d’immersion et du programme cadre (APPIPC).

1986 The Greater Victoria School Board assumes control of école Victor-Brodeur, on the military base in Esquimalt, making it the second French stand-alone school.

1987 The third French stand-alone school, école André-Piolat, opened in North Vancouver.

1993 The BCTF created the bureau of French Programs and Services and the Advisory Committee on French Programs and Services.

1995 The Ministry of Education announced the creation of a French school board, Conseil scolaire francophone (Francophone Education Authority/ FEA). The board has responsibility for French-as-a-first-language education throughout BC.

1998 The FEA assumed responsibility for hiring its own teachers—the BCTF created a new local (93): Association des enseignantes et enseignants francophones (ADEF). The local is now known as the Syndicat des enseignantes et enseignants du programme francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (SEPF).

2006 The Conseil scolaire francophone offers programme francophone services in 38 schools around the province of which 19 are stand-alone. Current CSF enrolment is 3,815 students, up from 1,800 in 1996, an increase of 112 %.

Pierre Blouin is co-ordinator, BCTF French Programs and Services.

Source: Based in part on a document from the Fédération des parents francophones de la C-B.


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