Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag is reiterating the federal government’s quest to increase the number of French speaking Canadians, and strengthen the two official languages across the country.
At a media event held at the Fort Langley National Historic Site on May 14, Aldag, along with Darrell Samson, Member of Parliament for Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook in Nova Scotia, discussed some of the highlights of the “Action Plan for Official Languages 2018-2023: Investing in Our Future.”
The plan includes an additional investment of $500 million over five years to help strengthen French speaking communities outside of Quebec, and English speaking communities inside Quebec.
Aldag, who sits on the official languages committee, noted that Langley has a long history with Francophones. When the Hudson’s Bay Company first established its trading post in Fort Langley in the early 1800s, half the original workforce was French, he said.
“French had a very strong start because the fort was the first settlement in the Lower Mainland,” Aldag said. “And we’ve seen our numbers dwindle … over the years, and part of what we’re trying to do with the federal government and the investments we’re making, is to increase the ratio of Francophones in B.C. and the supports that are available to the communities.”
The action plan is broken down into three pillars — strengthening our communities, strengthening access to services and promoting a bilingual Canada. One of its goals is to increase the number of Francophones living outside of Quebec to four per cent of the general population by 2036; currently, it is projected to drop to three per cent.
“In 1971, people don’t recognize that … 6.1 per cent of the population in Canada outside of Quebec were Francophones or French first language,” said Samson. “Back in 2016, we were down to 3.8 (per cent), so we lost almost half over 50 years.”
Compared to the entire province, in 2016, 1,810 out of 4.1 million residents in B.C. spoke French only, and 314,925 residents spoke both English and French.
Accordingly, in B.C., the action plan includes hiring and training more French speaking teachers — some even from Europe.
“(We are) looking at what infusion in funds we can give to Simon Fraser University through the new federal funds to train more teachers from home,” Aldag said.
“Those who have gone through the French immersion streams, those who have French as their first language, and I think that there’s huge opportunities there.”