Francophone youth activists are exhausted

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Young Francophone activists are exhausted

Photo: Yosri Mimouna Emilio Avalos Radio-Canada The documentary gives voice to a generation tired of having to try to win battles they thought they had already won.

Young Francophone leaders in a minority situation are at the end of their tether and they do not hide to say so in the documentary Vider sa sac, une jeunesse francophone tired. Facing the camera of journalist Rose Nantel, they confide in their exhaustion from being too often alone at the front, and from seeing the Francophonie lack inclusiveness.

While Quebec is attacking Anglicisms in a big publicity offensive on a “sick hawk», some French-speaking militant members outside the province prefer not to make the language of Shakespeare a scapegoat. The Fransaskois, Franco-Albertans and Acadians met in the context of the Radio-Canada report are “ bilingual and proud ”, notes Rose Nantel. English, they say, is not a threat to their language, she continues.

Their view of English, but also of the place that should be given to a plurality of Francophones — regardless of their accent, their level of French, their origin or their educational background — clashes somewhat with that of past generations. And if young activists like Janie Moyen, from Saskatchewan, are exhausted, it is partly because the Francophonie of today is not entirely representative of this plurality.

Young people have a “completely different vision of the Francophonie”, narrates Rose Nantel; the latter believe that the Francophonie is “stagnant”, she said in an interview. “The Francophonie I want to see is 'Do you speak French? You're in“”, sums up activist Janie Moyen. “For a lot of immigrants in the Francophone community, you see a kind of gap between those you consider Franco-Albertans and those you consider other people,” says Ahdithya Visweswaran, an Indo-Canadian immigrant and Franco-Manitoban from immersion.

Battles to start over

But this generation is also tired of having to try to win battles they thought they had already won, as is the case in New Brunswick, where the provincial government considered abolishing the French immersion program. “Instead of seeing new avenues of language rights, we are still fighting in court to preserve our gains,” says New Brunswicker Pascale Rioux-Doucet.

Young people are still ready to fight for the protection of French, but the vision of the Francophonie that they seek to defend and the way of doing so seem to be different from those of previous generations. “It doesn't mean we don't like what other generations have done, but we have to change,” says Janie Moyen. The documentary's director, Rachel Dugas, explains that many experts agree that institutions must evolve too.

The report produced at lightning speed with aplomb will certainly provoke reactions in the Francophone minority communities. Documentary filmmakers Rachel Dugas and Rose Nantel hope that their production will lead to a more open Francophonie, which will improve the reception of young people like Ahdithya Visweswaran in the community. “I have already heard that young people from immersion dilute the Francophonie,” said the latter, holding back tears. “It's hard to hear. The strength of the Francophonie comes from diversity,” he says.

This story is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.

Empty his bag, a tired French-speaking youth

Documentary of 30 minutes. Monday, March 20, 2023 at 11 p.m., on ICI RDI, and Wednesday, March 22, at 1:30 p.m. on ICI Télé and ICI