UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Minority Francophone schools in British Columbia, past, present, and future Boudreau, Hélène-Marie


Canada has two official languages: French and English. Each province must allow for an educational program in both languages where the number of students warrant such programs. Although minority language schools exist in all Canadian provinces, some provinces are so overwhelmingly English that the Francophone school programs struggle constantly to survive and threaten to become extinct. Yet a vigilant group of parents and partisans work incessantly to maintain these minority language school programs. This thesis will examine why these schools exist in British Columbia and whether or not they can promote the Francophone minority language and culture in the overwhelming Anglophone environment. Bilingual Canadian wonder that more Canadians are not bilingual. Some Canadians are dedicated to educating their children in their official minority language while others do not understand why Canada is officially bilingual. Yet, to take the example of just one province, British Columbia is and remains an Anglophone province. A Francophone parent would, I shall argue, be doing her child a great disservice to insist on schooling in Francophone minority programs. Family is only part of a child's world. The media, friends, neighbors, the stores, the community centers and the people that surround us make up our language and culture. In British Columbia, the language is English and the cultures are as diverse as the people who are part of them. The purpose of this study is to investigate and present an historical, religious, political and economic analysis of the reasoning behind the existence of Francophone minority language schools and programs in British Columbia, and to evaluate whether or not it is possible for these programs and schools to fulfill their mandate. My initial sentiments were biased in favor of Francophone minority programs and though I still believe that official minorities have an unquestionable constitutional right to their schools and to the administration of these schools, I no longer believe that these schools and programs alone can provide a rich ethnic sanctuary that could permit the minority language and culture to flourish. In fact, I no longer believe that it is in the student's best interest to attend these schools and programs. The students can only be crippled by their lack of knowledge of English and by their limited exposure to the Francophone world. I visited two of the three homogeneous Francophone schools and four Programme cadre programs in the mainstream Anglophone and French immersion schools in BC. I interviewed and videotaped students, parents, teachers, language education experts and attended conferences and meetings, examined pertinent historical, political, legal and pedagogical data, and concluded (not surprisingly) that language and culture are expressions of our everyday lives. My research strategy thus combined elements of historical, legal, sociological, and socio-linguistic method, relying both on direct observation and reference, and on considerable secondary literature. I conclude that one can teach the French language, but unless it is expressed and alive as part of our world, it is but a code with limited value. One cannot teach the Francophone culture. One either lives it (or a limited part of it) in a setting that must exclude the majority, thereby confining the world around and restricting opportunity, or one quickly becomes assimilated. Providing community schools where minority language is strictly enforced and reinforced at home is only the beginning. To date these ethnocentric shelters are not available in British Columbia. Perhaps the recently acquired right to administer some of the Francophone programs by the Francophone minority will empower the Francophone minority in B.C. and provide higher academic standards, a more attractive image of the minority language and culture and force the Francophone community to assume a sense of identity and belonging.

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