French-Ontario Day festivities kick off in Hamilton, following tensions over the city’s permit | Pro IQRA News

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The rain couldn’t stop Hamilton’s Francophone community festivities on Thursday, despite mingling with City Council putting this year’s flag-raising ceremony in jeopardy.

With Franco-Ontario Day fast approaching on September 25, the French-speaking community in Hamilton began celebrating Thursday by raising the French-Ontario flag.

“It is a symbol of our identity. It is a symbol of our heritage. We are very proud of it,” said Michael Norris, Coordinator of L’Ass Association Canadienne-française de l’Ontario Régionale Hamilton (ACFO Hamilton).

“It is a symbolic moment for us to commemorate those who came before us, those who fought for the right to speak only French in a minority environment.”

The French-Ontarian flag is “a symbol of our identity, a symbol of our heritage, and we are very proud of it,” said Michael Norris, coordinator of the French Canadian Association in Hamilton. (Ora Carino Rosas/CBC)

Controversy with the city

There has been some controversy surrounding the event this year due to the last-minute revocation of the permit by the city last week.

As a result, the ACFO was forced to move the event to September 22nd. It was tentatively scheduled for Friday, September 23.

Norm Miller, the city’s senior communications official, told CBC Hamilton that event organizers had not completed the booking process.

“Because records showed that the front yard was not booked that day, the next event request that came through the city’s reservation system was able to secure the front yard,” he said.

Norris said that while they were grateful to the city still attending Thursday’s event and for their continued support, they felt the city was not making the community a priority.

“This is an event that happens every year. It’s always on the calendar. It’s an institution now. This is the eighth edition that Hamilton puts on.”

A little girl receives an award during the Franco Ontario Day celebrations.
Jania Oetor was awarded the Prix Engagement Franco 2022 Youth Award Thursday. (Ora Carino Rosas/CBC)

The flag raising was the first of many events to be held over the weekend.

Other events include Saturday launch La Lin Pleu (Blue Line), a tourist trail highlighting the contributions of immigrant communities to the city. Opening will take place at the Redchurch Cafe at 2 p.m., followed by a guided tour and ending with a music show and picnic in Bayfront Park that evening. A dinner party for seniors is held on Sundays.

Thursday’s event featured the presentation of the Prix Engagement Franco 2022, which highlights the efforts and contributions from community members.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger speaks on a podium at the Franco Ontario Day celebrations at City Hall.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger spoke Thursday, saying the city is working to build two French schools on Garner Road. (Ora Carino Rosas/CBC)

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger spoke, expressing his support for the francophone community and about the new French language school, the MonAvenir and Viamonde School Board had hoped to see be built on Garner Road.

The new school will be home to a combined French public and Catholic school. The community has been lobbying for the school for a while, but, according to French school boards, the municipal government has delayed the project several times, citing bylaws problems and repulsed by 12th ward advisor Lloyd Ferguson.

“The City of Hamilton does not cater to the citizens and French-speaking families in the area. The municipality shows little willingness to recognize the rights of citizens and language minority families to attend French language schools,” said a press release from MonAvenir and Viamonde School Boards from September 2021.

“After maintaining a cordial relationship with the municipality in an effort to move the project forward, school boards are now forced to publicly denounce the city’s inaction on the project.”

Eisenberger said Thursday that he acknowledged the community’s desire to build the school going forward and said the city is up and running as quickly as possible.

“We are part of the city”

Jania Oetor won the Prix Engagement Franco 2022 Youth Award, which was awarded on Thursday.

Her father, Kudzu Oetor, has said he is very proud of being part of the community, but says he may feel there is a lack of recognition for French-speaking people in the city.

“We are just here to show the city we exist and… to make sure [people] I know we’re part of the city.”

As an immigrant from Togo, he said the French-speaking community is not “something you find everywhere”.

Kudzu Oetor, left, and his family attended the French-Ontario festivities at City Hall on Thursday. (Ora Carino Rosas/CBC)

“Having people you can relate to, who understand you from the start is very important, especially when you are a newcomer,” he said.

Kudzu said the city should continue to support the community.

“Sometimes we feel left out, so it’s good to have the mayor here, and the MPP members are here to show their support and help the city grow.”

Norris also shared his appreciation for the community.

As someone not from a French-speaking family, Norris said he felt “adopted” by the Francophone community in Hamilton.

“here I am [now], a lover of French, is organizing the Flag Raising Day for a society of which I would not have been a part if I had not stood on the shoulders of people who had shown important leadership in this society before. “

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