Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

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Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta

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On 13 December 1925, the Cercle Jeanne d'Arc, supported by les Chevaliers de Colomb, organized a congress of 400 Franco Albertans at the Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton to discuss the formation of a provincial French association. An organization was formed at that first meeting charged with the maintenance of all facets of French culture in Alberta, including religious, moral, social, intellectual and economic life. However, the paramount concern of the newly formed organization was education and the survival of the French community's identity in Alberta. A provisional committee was charged with the creation of an organizational constitution and half a year later, on the 12th of July 1926, the document was completed. The new constitution, ratified at the organization's first general congress, signified the official creation of the Association canadienne-française de l'Alberta (ACFA). Initially, the ACFA was composed of parish associations governed from a central office in Edmonton. The parishes would send one delegate to the annual general congress for every twenty-five dollars in contributions to the central office. Although the annual congresses were open to all francophone Albertans, the location of the meetings in Edmonton made the substantive contribution of members from parishes outside the capital region prohibitive. In addition, the organization of the ACFA, based on parish affiliation, gave cities with several parishes a greater say concerning the policy and direction of the organization as a whole. Consequently, during the early years of the ACFA, the organization was controlled by the interests of urban elites in Edmonton and to a lesser extent, Calgary. In order to counteract this disparity, the constitution was amended in 1930 to allow remote centres to form committees composed of representatives from the parish associations. The first regional reorganization took place in Rivière-la-Paix, inspired by the need to redirect the funds that had previously been moving to Edmonton into the creation of an elder care home. Later, in 1961, the association decided to disassociate the regional associations from their parishes and instead organized them according to their location and the density of French population. These new regional associations would later incorporate individually, allowing semi-autonomy from the parent ACFA provincial organization. In 1928, after a disagreement with the journal <em>L'Union</em>, a French newspaper, the ACFA decided to create its own weekly journal called <em>La Survivance</em>. This new weekly journal would become the primary communication between the organization's representatives and the membership. As such, the journal served as an attempt by the ACFA to solidify Franco-Albertan identity and forge closer ties between disparate groups of francophones throughout the province. During the late 1920s and 1930s, the ACFA started to experience a crisis of declining membership. This was due to the general movement away from parish associations for entertainment and community creation did you mean recreation?. The general Franco-Albertan community started to seek inclusion in the larger English society of Alberta, causing the traditional French parish branches to lose their importance. Instead of gathering at the community church as an entertainment activity, French Albertans were, in increasing numbers, frequenting the more diverse cultural activities of the English community. Beyond the obvious problems this presented to the French community concerning cultural assimilation, the drift away from the parish as the foundation of French identity affected the ACFA's ability to secure membership and importantly, membership fees. The arrival of the depression of the 1930s compounded the situation, all but decimating the association. By the end of the Depression, the ACFA's membership had reorganized itself. The ordinary members, who had previously resisted the system that transferred control to urban elites in Edmonton and Calgary, had drifted away from the organization. In their stead, the elites remained, leaving the organization composed primarily of people from medical and legal backgrounds. In addition to discussions with government, the ACFA displayed its commitment to education by setting up organizations concerned with French language instruction in schools. In 1926, the ACFA founded the Association des éducateurs bilingues de l'Alberta (AEBA) and aided in the formation of the Association des commissaires bilingues (ACB). In addition, the ACFA established an inspection and visit system for French and bilingual schools and set up French libraries. However, in keeping with association's goal to aid in all aspects of Franco-Albertan life, the ACFA turned its attention to the economic and agricultural concerns of its membership. In response to these needs, the ACFA helped develop credit unions. The first was formed in Calgary and by 1963, there were sixteen French credit unions across the province. Later, in 1997, the ACFA would open La Chambre économique, providing a full range of economic services to the Franco-Albertan community. In the late 1930s and 1940s, the association decided to organize its annual congresses around specific themes. For example, in 1939, the theme was cooperatives and in 1941, the congress concentrated on problems surrounding colonization. However, the messages tended to be overshadowed by the political intrigue and anti-French fanaticism of the larger community. In 1949, in response to these realities, the ACFA decided to establish CHFA, a French radio station that could help to counteract anti-French and assimilationist influences. During the 1950s, the ACFA experienced a crisis of funding. The popularity of the organization had started to wane, causing donations to decline. In response, the ACFA decided to set up satellite organizations that not only helped Franco-Albertans, as it had done in the past, but also derived a benefit to the ACFA. The first such organization was L'Almanach Franco-Albertain, set up in 1959 in conjunction with L'Assurance-vie Desjardins and Le Service de sécurité familiale. Later, in 1965, a system of general insurances was introduced with the aid of the Securité du Canada Company. These institutions would contribute to a foundation for the ACFA, which would provide funding for programming. The 1960s was a decade of great gains for the Franco-Albertan community in terms of advocacy and education rights. In 1964, the ACFA was incorporated by a provincial act, solidifying the organization as an entity tied to its charter and able to exist independently of its board and membership. Importantly though, in 1968 the organization's lobbying produced legislation allowing fifty percent French instruction in public schools, then later in 1976, that time was extended to eighty percent. The Canadian Charter, signed in 1982, made French instruction a right to all Canadians, allowing all French schools to receive public funds. The ACFA's activities in regards to education after the Charter shifted from lobbying for concessions to protection of rights and facilitation of education through its bookstores Le Carrefour. The creation of the Secrétariat d'État in 1969, later to become the Ministry of Canadian Heritage, provided the organization with funding to broaden its mandate. Particularly, the ACFA took a more active role in providing cultural activities. The ACFA is currently active in lobbying on behalf of the Franco-Albertan community to ensure the rights of the community in relation to the Charter and the Official Languages Act of Canada.

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