Young francophones

Michelle Lafleur celebrating Francophone Day at De La Salle high school.

"Michelle Lafleur has volunteered her time to work on Black History Month initiatives for the Haitian community in Ottawa since 2006. Recently, she devoted her time to Haitian earthquake relief efforts. She has also organized exhibitions of Haitian art and poetry, has led concerts and has participated in a multitude of cultural activities in her community."


Michelle Lafleur

Francophone heritage

Published Date:18 May 2012

Photo: Michelle Lafleur celebrating Francophone Day at De La Salle high school.

It was an honour for me to receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Youth Achievement Award for Ontario heritage conservation for 2011. And on top of that, to win the scholarship in celebration of the International Year for People of African Descent!

A prize like this represents a public recognition of citizens. It has made me realize that the little things we do have an impact on our community. Canada, in welcoming newcomers, encourages us to remember our own roots, by becoming a land of cultural diversity. It also encourages people to adapt to a new culture, and in my case, that meant Franco-Ontarian culture.

Being a young francophone in the nation’s capital seems to be as much of a challenge as it is elsewhere in Ontario. We cannot always get service in our language. Yet French is one of this country’s official languages. Canada was first colonized by the French. That said, France and the French language played a huge part in the founding of our country. It is good to know that we have not been forgotten.

The French language in Ontario has always been an interesting subject for me because I believe in this language, so colourful and richly textured. Franco-Ontarian culture represents a family for me. So many people have fought so that we could speak French. It’s for this reason that I want to become a high school teacher. I want to make young people aware of what a privilege it is for us to speak French. Bilingualism is a strength that opens doors. So many anglophones wish they could speak French but cannot. Certainly, we francophones are still struggling for a more prominent place. But the fact that we have a place at all is enough for us to be grateful and proud of our heritage.

At the Lieutenant Governor’s ceremony at Queen’s Park, I was the only prizewinner whose description was read in both English and French. It made me realize that, as a francophone, I can make my mark everywhere I go. I am grateful to the Ontario Heritage Trust for giving me this award. No matter what our origins, our culture or our mother tongue may be, we all have our place in this great mosaic of Ontario and, even more, of Canada. But the most important thing is that young people have incredible potential and can play a tremendous part in the future and the conservation of Ontario’s heritage. And to all those Ontario francophones who are still sleeping, it’s time wake up. But to all those who have contributed to the flourishing of our Franco-Ontarian culture, I say thank you.