Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
March 5, 2001
Francophone activist wins Order of Canada
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Claudette Roy, whose name has been synonymous with the pioneering of publicly-funded francophone schools in Edmonton, was recently made a member of the Order of Canada.
The Feb. 14 announcement was extra special for Roy because it was made by someone she knew, Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson.
"It's very gratifying to have this honour," said the assistant-principal of Maurice-Lavallee School. "But I think the honour belongs also to the community. I did what I did within a group in the community."
Roy, 54, and Clarkson served as board members on the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. Clarkson also visited the Bonnie Doon area school on her visit to Alberta as governor general in 1999.
The Order of Canada award is in recognition of Roy's advocacy for francophone education.
In 1983, shortly after passage of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which included a section on minority language education rights, Roy and a group of parents petitioned Edmonton Catholic Schools to open a francophone school. At the time there were five French immersion schools, but no francophone ones.
Francophone parents felt that French immersion was not the ideal setting for their children. They wanted more than French classes in their schools, they wanted a French culture.
"We thought 'Here's a constitutional right, let's access it.'"
Today there are more than 20 francophone schools in Alberta.
Roy, a mother of two and grandmother of two, has been an educator since 1968.
She is also active in the community serving on various boards and committees including past chair of the Western Catholic Reporter board of directors. She is an avid reader and plays the organ at her parish, St. Thomas d'Aquin.
Roy speaks highly of francophone education, ensuring the public knows its difference from French immersion schools. The difference between francophone and French immersion schools is the same as between Catholic and public schools, said Roy. They're each different cultures.
"It's the same parallel as when people say 'Why have Catholic school?' It's like saying that a Catholic school is the same as a public school except for religion classes. But it's more than just a religion class. The Catholic faith is everywhere in the school."
Roy said the same thing can be said about francophone schools. A francophone school builds on French as a first language and includes that culture in every aspect of the school.
"The role of a francophone school is not only to teach them the language, but to develop their (francophone) identity," Roy said. "When you're learning your first language as your second language, they call that subtractive learning. You're taking away from what you should be learning."
Not only did the parents with whom Roy worked want a francophone education for their children, but they were also adamant that it be a Catholic school.
"We got 1,000 signatures on the petition - we got those signatures on the porches of the churches," Roy said. "We wanted the school to be francophone and we wanted it to be Catholic."
If it weren't for the Catholic aspect, Roy suspects it wouldn't have received much support from the francophone parishes.
"Sixteen years later, we've gone from worrying about our survival to realizing what we're doing is important to the community," Roy said.
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