The year 2011 is a time of celebration for the Francophone community; it’s the 25th anniversary of Rencontres, the Francophone radio program broadcast on Saturdays from 5-6 pm on CBC North.

Rencontres is the only Franco-yukonnaise radio show. It is one of the only radio shows in Canada, produced by a dynamic team of volunteer hosts and technicians, to feature an hour of Francophone culture and information about the Yukon Francophone community.

To mark the occasion, French Toast spoke with two very active members of the Rencontres team, Angélique Bernard and Roch Nadon.

Nadon is director of the cultural branch of l’Association franco-yukonnaise (AFY), which co-ordinates Rencontres with CBC North. Bernard, who is president of AFY, has been a volunteer host of the program for 13 years.

“The whole adventure began in February 1985. At that time, the show was half an hour long, Sundays from 7-7:30 pm,” Bernard explains.

In September 1985, the show switched from half an hour to an hour long. It was broadcast on Sundays until 1994, when it changed to a live transmission on Fridays. In January 1998, Rencontres took its current place on the CBC schedule.

“At the beginning, anglophone technicians were in charge of the broadcast. After a while, the knowledge was transmitted to the Francophone volunteer participants,” says Nadon. “Today, the whole team of Rencontres is Francophone and we have three technicians currently working on the show.”

The first recording of the program still available is from 1987.

“At the time, the team of volunteer hosts was made up of Pierre Laroche, Nathalie Parenteau, Chantal Mercier, Hélène St-Onges, Denise Beauchamps, Caroline Boucher, Lise Ouimet and Jacques Breton who, at the time, was one of most involved volunteers,” Bernard says.

“Jacques Breton was recognized as a mentor for many future hosts. About 150 volunteers have participated to the show since 1985,” she adds. “It’s great to realize that, despite the lack of experience of many hosts, the show has always sounded very professional.”

Throughout its many years on-air, the purpose of the show has remained the same: to be a reliable source of information about the services, cultural life and activities in the Yukon Francophone community, with a special theme for every show.

Rencontres is not only for Francophones, but also for others who want to develop their ears for the French language and get to know the local Francophone community better. This has been a constant characteristic of the program for the past 25 years.

“The changes we notice are mostly in the diversification of the information, the choice of the music (more and more world music): but that’s a result of having easy internet access in the Territory, as anywhere else around the world,” declares Nadon.

“From 1987 to 1990, CBC North was in charge of the show Rencontres. Around the beginning of the ’90s, the cultural branch of AFY took charge of the coordination and management of the volunteer team.”

As for the future, what can we hope to expect from Rencontres?

“The Rencontres team is more than willing to host two hours of show,” Nadon says. “With the team we have right now, we can afford to attempt the experience.”

Indeed, why not?

On February 4, the Café-rencontre, the Friday community dinner, will honour the 25th anniversary of Rencontres. Many activities will take place during that evening.

Also, stay tuned to Rencontres in the next three months. The show will feature some special moments of broadcasts from the past, to bring up funny memories, as well as an important part of the history for the Franco-yukonnaise community.

Virginie Hamel is a regular contributor to What’s Up Yukon who reports on events in Yukon’s Francophone community.

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Virginie Hamel is a regular contributor to What’s Up Yukon who keeps tab on events in Yukon’s francophone community.