In mid-January, I was given the opportunity to coordinate Je parle français And I Love in English, 2015, a theatrical performance written by and for Francophone women that will be presented this weekend, March 6 and 7, at the Old Fire Hall.
As a newcomer to the Yukon, I did not see the sold-out début in 2013, but after talking with friends I learned that the play sparked a controversy within the Francophone and Francophile community.
What bothered some was the suggestion that Yukon’s bilingual diversity was attributed exclusively to the efforts of Francophone women from Québec. In consequence, the play appeared to repudiate the contributions of Francophiles, Acadians, Franco-Ontarians, and those who live in French communities across the Canadian prairies.
I think it is important to ask ourselves how bilingualism came to be a part of our trans-Canadian heritage. How did these pockets of francophone groups came to exist and remain across the country?
“Growing up in Saskatchewan, it was my mother that pushed my sisters and I to retain our Francophone heritage,” says Joël Potié, who plays the character Steve. “She forced us to go to school with the same 50 kids for over a decade. By the end, we were dying to meet Anglophones but it was definitely due to this that we are all completely bilingual.
“Growing up in Toronto, my mother encouraged me to go into French immersion in middle school so that I could learn my father’s language”, recounts Ontarian Erin Evangeline Sanderson, who plays the character Kaila. “He died before I was born, but by giving me the middle name Evangeline, and pushing me to speak French, my mother connected me to my roots amid an otherwise completely Anglophone upbringing.”
The lights and sound technician, Rachelle Arsenault, also shares her childhood experiences from elsewhere in Canada. “Growing up as an Acadian I had many Anglophone friends. Sometimes they would call and ask for “Rachel” and my mother would hang-up the phone after saying there was no one by that name at our house. They would have to call back and ask for Rachelle.”
If the cast and crew of Je parle français And I Love in English, 2015, is representative of our French Canadian, then our nation’s bilingualism is united, to a large degree, by the efforts of female Francophone globetrotters who insisted that their children practice their maternal language.
It is thanks to this collective effort that we have opportunities such as this theatre performance to experience the full richness of Canada’s bilingual diversity, here in our own backyard, this very weekend.
Je parle français And I Love in English will be presented at the Old Fire Hall on March 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. Prices range up to $18.
Tickets are available at the Yukon Arts Centre. For more information visit us on Facebook or at lesessentielles.ca