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The fight against Regulation 17, the school crisis in Sturgeon Falls, the French Language Services Act or even the legal battle to save Montfort … These key episodes in Franco-Ontarian history remain unknown to English-speaking students in Ontario, despite the curriculum review in 2018.
La Francophonie in Canada? A Quebec story. This is what could sum up the learning of the history of the Francophonie in the schools of the English-language school system in Ontario.
Researchers Marie-Hélène Brunet and Raphaël Gani looked at this question by studying the history curriculum in 10e year.
“We chose this year because it corresponds to the teaching of contemporary history. It was in those years that many Franco-Ontarian battles were fought, against Regulation 17 or the closure of Montfort, for example. But the only thing we talk about in the program is the Quebec flag and Saint-Jean, seen as exclusively Quebec, ”notes the professor at the Faculty of Education of the University of Ottawa, Marie-Hélène. Brunet.
In Ontario, the curriculum can vary from the English-language school system to the French-language system, which allows French-language schools in particular to emphasize the history of the Franco-Ontarian community to promote the construction of their students’ identity.
“It’s an interesting approach because it lets each group decide. We can still see that most of the content is similar, ”remarks the doctoral student at the Faculty of Education of the University of Ottawa, Raphaël Gani.
To the teachers’ appreciation
The Ministry of Education ensures that Franco-Ontarian history is a good part of the history curriculum of English schools.
From French Ontario, students could hear about the recognition of the Franco-Ontarian flag, in 10e year, to which merit is attributed to the provincial government, or of obtaining school management, which may be mentioned in 8e year.
However, this remains at the discretion of the teachers, who may or may not draw on these examples to talk about the actions carried out by individuals, groups or communities, including the Franco-Ontarian community, to improve their living conditions.
But whether in the traditional course or in immersion, many teachers do not know Franco-Ontarian history, which does not encourage them to teach it.
“We absolutely do not know what is happening in the classes and there is no obligation or special expectation,” regrets Ms. Brunet, who remains convinced that informed teachers would be interested in addressing this part of the history of the province.
In 2018, a curriculum review was carried out to respond to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and thus improve the teaching of First Nations history in Ontario schools. But in terms of Franco-Ontarian history, and that of Francophones outside Quebec, nothing has really changed.
“It’s as if we were unable to talk about several reconciliations at the same time,” Mr. Gani said ironically.
Should there be more Ontario Francophones in history classes in English-language schools? Ms. Brunet is convinced of this.
“How many times do we hear: why Franco-Ontarians more than another minority group? We focus only on Quebec, seen as the only French-speaking space, presented in a binary and simplistic way. “
” The teaching of history is political in itself! »- Marie-Hélène Brunet, researcher
“When Doug Ford, in a statement, compares Francophones to any minority group in Ontario, it testifies to this vision. It is also found in Alberta. And that then explains why some governments do not find it so important to give resources to this group seen as any other ”, analyzes Mr. Gani.
Joined by ONFR +, the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) refused to comment on this issue, as did the Minister of Francophone Affairs, Caroline Mulroney. In 2017, her liberal predecessor, Marie-France Lalonde, as well as the then premier Kathleen Wynne, demonstrated a certain openness to integrating the history of the Ontario Francophonie into the curriculum of English schools.
For Mr. Gani, it would even be necessary to go further.
“In the anglophone system, we don’t teach anglophone identity. Students do not realize the importance of language in their lives and do not know that they have language rights, especially if they move to Quebec. As long as Anglophones do not have a vision of who they are, it will be difficult for them to understand Francophones ”, estimates the researcher who is devoting his thesis, entitled“ We are multicultural, they are Francophones ”, to this question.
Improvements also to be made among Francophones
The French-language school system is not immune to criticism either, add the two researchers. Because if the history of the Ontario Francophonie is taught there, its diversity remains neglected.
“We talk about the Ontario Francophonie without mentioning its diversity and plurality. This is a point that should be improved, ”said Mr. Gani.
The work carried out by the two researchers brought them new questions.
“How is Franco-Ontarian history taught in French-language schools? What place do we make for women and diversity? These are also questions that interest me, ”explains Ms. Brunet.
The two researchers plan to continue their work and, with the help of Monica Szymczuk, will be interested in the programs of 7e and 8e year. The results of their work should be known in March 2021.