CPF volunteers, past and present, have worked tirelessly to add “École” to hundreds of schools in British Columbia and Yukon ever since the West Coast’s first Immersion program was introduced in 1968 in Coquitlam, BC.
All of these concerned parents and educators who have been advocating for French second language learning for nearly 40 years have granted students some amazing opportunities, as we learned in Summer 2015 through our project Where Are They Now?
Seeing as CPF BC & Yukon will soon be celebrating our 40th anniversary (2018), and French Immersion recently celebrated its 50 years this year (1965, St-Lambert, QC), we wanted to catch up with some volunteers who have seen this organization, and the programs for which we advocate, grow despite obstacles and opposition.
We have heard some truly fascinating stories. For instance, did you know that there were once organizations called Canadian Parents for English, and APEC (the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada)? These organizations were fuelled by a fear of Canada’s official bilingualism, worrying of a plot to make Canada uniquely French. These organizations fought CPF’s efforts through much of the 1980s and early 1990s, until, after many name changes, the had fallen off the radar by 2002.
From students like Conor (see left), we pass on a sincere thank you to all who have helped to promote second language learning in BC and Yukon, Merci beaucoup!
Burnaby CPF Chapter Founders (1975)
Many thanks to Deanna Cazes, a founding member of CPF, who helped us get this great group of volunteers together for an interview at Lochdale School in Burnaby, BC, where we discussed the first years of CPF and French Immersion in Burnaby. Read Deanna Cazes’s testimonial here: CPF Burnaby Chapter Memoir
Linda Shulman, CPF Legacy Volunteer | Vancouver
“I helped to put together the booklet “Quoi Faire in Vancouver” which was a pioneer effort in French and in English regarding all the things we could think of for children to do in French in Vancouver. However, I don’t remember much else, except that I suggested a French film (“L’Argent de poche” by Truffaut) and we had a showing for French Immersion children.
I signed our daughter up for kindergarten before we even knew where the school would be. She has been able to use her French socially and professionally and it turned out to be an excellent schooling system with exposure to Canada’s two languages and cultures, as well as an entrée to greater French culture. Our two grandchildren are now enrolled in French Immersion as well.”
Elaine Barbour – CPF Legacy Volunteer | Vancouver
Elaine Barbour met with Jensen Edwards on August 24, 2015, to talk about how she brought French immersion to her community of East Vancouver in 1983 through the Eastside French Immersion Preschool.
Brenda & Bernard Dewonck, CPF BC & Yukon Legacy Board Members | Richmond
We met with Brenda in Bernard Dewonck at their home to talk about the early days of French immersion in the Richmond School District. We talked about hand-made French resources and fruit sale fundraisers, among other things.
Val Biffert, Chapter, Provincial and National Board Member | Williams Lake
Val Biffert met us in Williams Lake to discuss how French is kept vibrant in smaller communities, how CPF got started in her community, and how CPF Williams Lake hosted and organized an amazing provincial Conference and AGM.
Anne Louise McFarland, CPF volunteer and teacher | Saanich
“I started the secondary French Immersion program at Stelly’s Secondary School in Saanich in 1988. In 1992, I started the K – 12 gift exchange with the help of our local CPF who sponsored the evening. They provided the gift to the Grads (usually a pen with which to write the government exams) that were presented by the French Immersion kindergarten students. On the same evening, the winners of the Concours were announced. It was a wonderful evening that showcased the Grads and their accomplishments to the parents of the younger students and to their own parents. The local Trustees and media were always invited to give as much exposure as possible to the evening. Since then, many districts have started their own evening. CPF has always been fabulous in Saanich and has provided many cultural activities for our students over the years (La fête Colombienne, Marc Tardif and many others).
“They presented me with the Bouquet de Merci award many years ago. The stained glass of the dogwood hangs proudly in the window of my dining room. I still attend the Concours as a judge in our District and am very happy to be part of the French Immersion world.”
Margaret Yandel, CPF Legacy Volunteer, Saanich
“From 1998-2000, I held the position of President of CPF-Saanich. I volunteered somewhat naively as my first son entered French Immersion Kindergarten. I was inspired to do so because I had enjoyed French as a student and wanted to help in whatever way I could to make the experience a good one for my son and the other students. My saving grace was that I had a full executive of keen and hardworking volunteers that were ready and willing to assist.
Not more than a few months into my term I was faced with the challenge of advocating for the FSL K-4 program in order to keep it off the chopping block due to budget pressures. In SD63, all children take French from kindergarten. This decision that all children were to have equal opportunity to take French in kindergarten came about when the FI program was first instituted.
I was at a loss as to where to start but magically the stars aligned to bring the necessary parents and resources together to save the program. This was accomplished within less than a week’s notice of the impending School Board meeting. Miracles do happen; the program was saved and exists to this day.”
Jack Ethier, CPF Legacy Volunteer | Mission
“Quand nous avons commencé à promouvoir le programme d’Immersion française à Mission, nous avons rencontré beaucoup d’opposition avec la commission scolaire. Alors, nous avons pris la tangente de vouloir implanter le Programme Francophone et nous avions eu assez de signatures pour commencer un tel programme ici. La Commission Scolaire, n’ayant pas le choix, a opté pour accepter en même temps les anglophones qui en fait, n’avait pas le droit d’inscrire leurs enfants dans un programme pour les francophones. Alors c’est ainsi que ces programmes ont débuté dans notre localité.”
“When we began to promote the French immersion program in Mission, we were confronted with much opposition from the school district. So, we took the roundabout way in by raising enough signatures to get the Francophone program in Mission. The district, having no choice, opted to accept the anglophones’ demands as well as anglophone parents were not allowed to register their children in the Francophone program. This is how these programs came to be in our community.”
Jeanne Fryer, CPF Legacy Volunteer | Abbotsford
“It was 1977 and the push for French Immersion was spreading across many districts in BC. Being a Francophone, I found myself quickly put to the forefront of Canadian Parents for French for both the Abbotsford and Mission School Districts. I was promoting French in both cities by running French programs for four to eight year-olds at the local libraries and community centres. It was October 1977 and some districts in BC had already started French Immersion programs. Parents in Abbotsford and Mission were now eager to get their own respective programs up and running. We were pressing reluctant School Boards in both districts for over a year and a half. At an important Abbotsford Board Meeting, a group of approximately 50 parents and I stormed the SD34 Board Office to present our request to have a French Immersion Program. The Trustees needed to vote in favour of the implementation of the French Immersion program, if it were to start in September 1979. That evening, the trustees voted narrowly by a vote to 4-3 in favour of the program.
Canadian Parents for French was instrumental in kick-starting the French Immersion Programs in both the school districts of Abbotsford and Mission. I was, and continue to be to this very day, truly proud and honoured to have been able to assist in this meaningful and successful process.”