Founded in 1975, the Fédération des francophones hors Québec became the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada in June 1991. It acts as the voice of francophone community organisations outside Quebec.
Fédération des francophones hors Québec (1975 – 1991)
Since 1969, the Department of Secretary of State (federal) financially supported the education, political representation and cultural expression of francophones who were a minority in their community (seeFrench Language in Canada). In the fall of 1975, it offered financial support for the creation of the Fédération des francophones hors Québec (FFHQ), which comprised of associations representing provincial francophone communities and several national industry associations (see also Quebec, Estates General of French Canada).
With an annual budget of 3 million dollars, the FFHQ was able to enhance its consultation and research capacities. While openly reproaching the federal state for distracting the francophones from their “real” problems, namely the lack of mechanisms facilitating self-determination, the Fédération did recognize that it was funding French-language education and culture.
From coast to coast, the FFHQ certainly defended the right to primary and secondary education in French, but also the right to establish French-language school boards which at the time only existed in New Brunswick. The Fédération believed that the failure to provide education in French and to recognize the French language accelerated the young people’s assimilation into the anglophone majority.
FFHQ proposals and interventions
While adopting neutrality in matters regarding the sovereignty-association movement led by the Parti Québécois (see alsoRené Lévesque), the FFHQ drew inspiration from its ideas first to promote the recognition of francophones as an equal and distinct society, then to deepen their political autonomy. In a series of memoirs, namely Les héritiers de Lord Durham (1977), Deux poids, deux mesures (1978) and Pour ne plus être sans pays (1979), the FFHQ called for a number of constitutional reforms: the introduction of a republican regime, the transformation of the Senate into a “Chamber of the federation” based on equal representation of francophones and anglophones, the recognition of cultural duality, the recognition of Indigenous peoples as the “third founding nation” and official bilinguism in Manitoba and Ontario.
In November 1981, nine provinces agreed on the content of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which would be enshrined in the Canadian Constitution. However, the FFHQ was disappointed with Section 23. Indeed, while it guaranteed right holders the access to education in French in French-language institutions wherever warranted by the number of children, it did not recommend the establishment of French-language school boards from coast to coast. Numerous appeals to the tribunals and two decisions by the Supreme Court were needed for this project to come to fruition in all provinces and territories, between 1993 and 2001.
During the first mandate of the Progressive Conservative government under Brian Mulroney (1984-1988), the FFHQ actively participated in the revision of the Official Languages Act. It voiced criticisms about the Meech Lake Accord (1987) which suggested that Quebec be declared a “distinct society” but did not require the promotion of linguistic duality within the other provinces. Yet this is what the FFHQ requested in order to guarantee that francophones outside Quebec would enjoy the same status as anglophones in Quebec. The amended Act of 1988, comprising a new Part VII, imposed on the federal state the mandatory adoption of “positive measures” regarding the development of official language minority communities.
Fédération des communautés francophone et acadienne du Canada (since 1991)
The FFHQ had weaker ties with the government under the Quebec Liberal Party between 1985 and 1994. In 1988, it opened a new satellite office in Quebec to improve the relationship, but minister Claude Ryan took a stand against the Franco-Albertan parents involved in the Mahé case. Ryan feared that if the Supreme Court ruled in their favour, the result would be the mandatory establishment of linguistic school boards in Quebec (a four-part system which was already imposed upon the province of Ontario, consisting of Anglo-protestant, Anglo-Catholic, Franco-catholic and Franco-protestant school boards). In 1998, Quebec simultaneously established linguistic school boards and undenominationalized its education system.
In 1991, the FFHQ became the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada (FCFA), underlining its accession into the federal regime and its detachment from Quebec. During the development of the Charlottetown Accord (1992), which ultimately failed, the FCFA formulated a provision to support linguistic duality. In the referendum on Quebec sovereignty (1995), it openly sided with the “No” camp.
Evolution of the organization and its priorities
The FCFA focused less on assimilation and expressed more interest in welcoming francophone immigrants. The Parti Québécois government (1995-2003), on the other hand, announced a policy about the Canadian Francophonie (1995) but did not forget the FCFA’s opposition to the sovereignty. Meanwhile, in the federal state, the reduced promotion of linguistic duality under the liberal government (1993-2006) undermined the ability of francophone organizations to assert their claims.
The FCFA still conducted research. In fact, it requested specific studies on identity, education, immigration, arts, the economy, postsecondary education, ties with Quebec, anglophones, ethnocultural communities, Indigenous peoples and relationships with governments. Furthermore, the FCFA focused more intently on the reactions of the federal state, the provinces and their fellow anglophone citizens than that of their Quebecois “brothers”.
The FCFA under the conservative government of Stephen Harper
Elected in 2006, the conservative government abolished the Court Challenges Program, limiting the ability of linguistic minorities of challenging federal laws they deemed discriminatory. It also appointed unilingual anglophones in senior public service positions. The FCFA challenged certain decisions, and in 2008, the government was forced to finance the causes that had been approved before the program was abolished. It also established the Language Rights Support Program which solely supports causes concerning linguistic rights presented in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 2017, the liberal government reinstated the Court Challenges Program.
Coincidentally, the FCFA noticed that the number of organizations devoted to defending francophones had multiplied: they were now more than 800 strong. This had distanced the Canadian Francophonie from a wider vision and encouraged siloed efforts. The FCFA understood that the progress they had achieved was fragile. As a solution, there was a proposal to reinforce the ability of organizations to accomplish their mission with regards to the official languages. In June 2007, the Summit for francophone and Acadian communities articulated a vision focused on “action, solidarity, collaboration, inclusion, democratic participation and individual and collective accountability”.
In 2006, the House of Commons passed the conservative prime minister’s motion, recognizing Quebec as “a nation within a united Canada”. This was a step forward in the Conservatives’ plan to introduce “open federalism” and bring about more cooperation among the governments. The FCFA would have preferred the recognition of a “francophone nation” or a “French-Canadian community”, but this generated more friction than understanding in the media. The liberal government in Quebec (2003-2012, 2014-2018) endeavoured to renew its policy about the Canadian Francophonie, then opened the Centre de la francophonie des Amériques in 2008. The FCFA was moderately enthusiastic. Indeed, the prospects of reconciliation with Quebec seemed complex: the Canadian Francophonie tended to underline cultural, linguistic and political differences with the province, rather than highlighting their commonalities.
In 2018, the FCFA tabled its own bill on official languages in the hopes that the liberal government under Justin Trudeau will initiate the modernization of the current Act. In 2020, the FCFA and Quebec will collaborate to organize a summit aiming for the convergence of Canadian francophone communities to strengthen the ties between the province and the francophone and Acadian communities in Canada.