Premier apologizes for 1912 law banning French in Ont. schools

TORONTO -- Premier Kathleen Wynne formally apologized to Ontario's francophones Monday for a 1912 regulation that banned elementary school teachers from speaking French.

See Full Article

"Regulation 17 showed a disregard for Franco-Ontarian identity and equality, and on behalf of the government of Ontario I offer an apology," Wynne told the legislature.

The regulation was enforced for about 15 years before it finally fell into abeyance by 1944, a period Wynne described as a "wound" for Ontario's French-speaking population. Ontario did not officially recognize the right of francophones to receive French-language education in elementary and secondary schools until 1984.

"The government enforced regulation 17 for more than a decade before finally conceding that the policy was a failure, but it stayed on the books much longer," said Wynne. "The francophone community feared that Franco-Ontarian children were losing their language."

The government of the day stated it wanted to raise the quality of English-language education in primary schools, so it prohibited teachers from communicating with students in French beyond grade 2. Many schools and teachers refused to obey the regulation, so the government brought in another to take away school funding and teachers' certifications if they continued to allow French to be spoken.

"The tremendous courage and tenacity of Franco-Ontarians has not gone unnoticed," said Wynne.

"In just a few generations, Ontario has gone from a place that was at times resistant to diversity to a place that fully embraces different cultures and languages."

The premier dismissed the idea of compensation or reparations, and said the province was already making "concrete gestures" by providing French services and schools, and noted there is a debate about creating a French university.

"What's important right now is to acknowledge that there was a regulation in place that was not fair, that did not recognize the importance of the francophone community in Ontario," said Wynne.

"I think the changes that have been made over the last decades are very, very important in terms of recognizing the Francophonie in Ontario."

Sudbury Liberal backbencher Glenn Thibeault, who asked for the official apology, said it demonstrated that the government recognizes its past error.

"It's more than the apology itself," he said. "It's the opportunity to turn that page and say that the francophone community is now one that's rooted in our province."

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown called Regulation 17 "a black mark in Ontario's history" and said he supported Wynne's decision to apologize.

"It was wrong when it happened, and even though the apology is coming late, I'm glad that we're making it," he said.

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath welcomed the apology to Ontario's French-speaking community and urged the government to keep increasing the services it provides in French.

"The lasting impacts of this assimilation policy created barriers to education for francophone Ontarians for many decades," said Horwath. "Francophone children do not always have access to French schools, and we still don't have a French university governed by and for francophone Ontarians."

Ontario is home to about 612,000 francophones, the largest French-speaking population in Canada outside of Quebec.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Inmate confesses to 90 killings; investigators corroborate 30

    World News CBC News
    A man convicted of three California murders and long suspected in numerous other deaths now claims he was involved in about 90 killings nationwide spanning nearly four decades, and investigators already have corroborated about a third of those, a Texas prosecutor said Thursday. Source
  • Nursing home staffer in Kingston, Ont., charged in thefts of wedding rings

    Canada News CTV News
    KINGSTON, Ont. -- A 26-year-old woman faces theft, fraud and other charges after police say several wedding rings were stolen from nursing home residents in Kingston, Ont. Kingston police say they were called to a local nursing home on Oct. Source
  • Canada resisting UN request to extend Mali mission: sources

    World News CBC News
    The Trudeau government is reportedly resisting a United Nations request to extend Canada's peacekeeping mission in Mali so medical evacuations can continue while replacements for Canada's personnel arrive. Canada has eight helicopters and 250 military members in the sprawling West African nation to rescue injured peacekeepers and transport troops and their equipment. Source
  • Brexit omnishambles throws British government into chaos

    World News CBC News
    Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday. Source
  • Indigenous Guardians program gets $5.7M in fed funding

    Canada News CBC News
    Ten First Nations communities from across B.C., along with 25 other Indigenous communities nationally, have been selected to receive funds for a new federally-funded environmental stewardship program. New act will boost Indigenous participation in B.C. environmental assessments Source
  • Indigenous Guardians program gets $5.7M in federal funding

    Canada News CBC News
    Ten First Nations communities from across B.C., along with 25 other Indigenous communities nationally, have been selected to receive funds for a new federally-funded environmental stewardship program. New act will boost Indigenous participation in B.C. environmental assessments Source
  • Threat made against Toronto private school at centre of sexual assault investigation, police say

    Canada News CBC News
    Toronto police have ramped up patrols after a threat was made against a Catholic boys' private school that's at the centre of a sexual assault investigation. Police did not disclose any information about the nature of the threat. Source
  • Toronto private school didn't report incident of alleged sexual assault, police say

    Canada News CBC News
    Toronto police have ramped up patrols after a threat was made against a Catholic boys' private school that's at the centre of a sexual assault investigation. Police did not disclose any information about the nature of the threat. Source
  • Florida the 'laughingstock of the world,' judge says in vote recount ruling

    World News CBC News
    A federal judge slammed Florida on Thursday for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems and said the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000. U.S. Source
  • Florida senate race headed for hand recount

    World News CBC News
    A federal judge slammed Florida on Thursday for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems and said the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000. U.S. Source