Earlier this year, the Mayor of Quebec City reached out to Grande Prairie City Council with an invitation to join the Francophone and Francophile Cities Network. Working with other founding members, Moncton, New Brunswick and Lafayette, Louisiana, Quebec wanted to connect cities across North America with strong ties to the French language and culture.
The purpose of the Network would be to "promote communities that are historically, culturally, and linguistically affiliated with French Canadian culture and showcase their tourist attractions."
Grande Prairie was invited to be part of the network based on its significant ties to French culture and heritage. It's even reflected in our name. You can find out more about Grande Prairie's French heritage by visiting the Grande Prairie Museum or the South Peace Regional Archives or by reading any of our history books.
Today, there are around 5,000-6,000 people who speak French in the city. We have a Francophone school, a couple thousand students enrolled in French immersion, and have a very active French Association (ACFA Grande Prairie). One of the city's largest festivals each year is the Cabane à Sucre (Maple Sugar Festival), a celebration of French Canadian culture and heritage which takes place in February each year. Given our strong ties to the French community, Council was interested in becoming a part of the Francophone Cities Network.
Over the last couple of days, I had the privilege of attending the inaugural conference of the Network in Quebec City. While there, I signed up Grande Prairie as an official member on behalf of Council. There was no cost to becoming a member and there are some great benefits that come with joining:
Information sharing. Being linked to other cities with French heritage gives us access to a wealth of knowledge. During the conference I was able to learn things such as what other cities are doing to celebrate their French history and culture and what primarily English cities are doing to welcome French migrants and immigrants.
Economic spinoffs. One of the key objectives of the Network is tourism promotion. The Network is going to be setting up tourism "circuits" that will market groups of cities to tourists looking for French heritage destinations as well as places where tourist attractions are accessible in French. This will give Grande Prairie another avenue to market our region and attractions like the dinosaur museum.
Being a part of the Network will also help showcase the French services our community provides for those seeking employment here.
A website for the Network is being developed and will highlight our city to the world. You can see what has been developed so far here:
I look forward to continuing to work with the Network as it develops. If you'd like to know, give me a shout!
À plus tard!