Language rights and education - Ontario Heritage Trust

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Language rights and education

The story

“The role of French-speaking people in shaping the history and life of this province reaches back to the early 17th century, when explorers and missionaries embarked on official journeys of reconnaissance and faith.” Thomas H.B. Symons, Chairman, Ontario Heritage Trust
“Thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated and determined individuals, the small victory at L'École Guigues in 1916 was the catalyst that eventually led to the official recognition of French schools in Ontario.” Paule Doucet, Board member, Ontario Heritage Trust

Who

French-speaking citizens | teachers | students | government officials | religious officials

What

The struggle for French language rights and education in Ontario.

When

20th century

Where

Throughout Ontario

Why

To achieve access to education and services in French | To recognize officially the significance of the French language to the history and identity of the province | To acknowledge the role of French-speaking people in shaping the growth and development of Ontario

In the period following Confederation (1867), French-speaking citizens in Ontario were placed under great pressure to conform more closely to the province’s English-speaking majority, particularly in the areas of language and education. This pressure intensified when, in 1912, the provincial government introduced legislation that severely restricted French-language education in Ontario.

The introduction of this legislation, known as Regulation 17, became the focal point in the struggle for French-language rights in the province. Although the government later modified its policy, the struggle against assimilation into the dominant English-speaking culture continued throughout the first half of the 20th century. In response to these assimilative pressures, French-speaking citizens created a number of organizations focused on promoting their culture and advocating for equal rights.

From the 1960s onward, significant gains were made in the struggle for language and education rights in Ontario. These advances – which included provincial legislation to authorize French-language elementary and secondary schools in 1969 – strengthened Franco-Ontarian identity and set the stage for further accomplishments in the areas of arts, culture, politics and education.