Here we are - Franco-OntarianDay again! Not that it's a long tradition, exactly — it was only in 2010 that the Ontario Government declared September 25 the day the province celebrates its Francophone community. Nevertheless, Franco pride has been around for a while, and today marks the 36th anniversary that the green and white flag was first raised in 1975.
Technically, I'm not a true Francophone — my mother tongue is English, though French has been kicking around in my head since I was a five-year-old French Immersion brat. But in 2009, Ontario broadened its definition of Francophones:
"Francophones were previously defined as those whose mother tongue is French....The new Inclusive Definition of Francophone (IDF) is based on three questions in the census concerning mother tongue, the language spoken at home, and knowledge of official languages."
Happily, it now looks like I actually qualify for my membership card. Ontario boasts over 600,000 Francophones, the largest French-speaking community in Canada outside Quebec. But we're a pretty diverse group: here in Toronto, almost half of the Francophone population was born outside of Canada.
The Ontario Francophonie is far from homogenous (this might explain the lack of any real French quartier in Canada's largest city — although the movement to create a one-stop-shopping place for foie gras and Côtes du Rhone is building).
It's true that the French language, especially in its written form, is highly codified. The French Academy's immortels, with their habits verts and ceremonial swords, maintain a strict, internationally recognized standard of French. But such rules don't always apply when it comes to advertising copy, personal letters, literature, and other less codified forms of communication.
The fact that language is so mutable is part of what I love about translating. And here in Ontario, the mix of cultures that make up our immigrant Francophone population (African 26.4%, Caribbean 7.1%, European 36.7%, Asian 12.4%, Middle-Eastern 11.1%, Central/South American 4%, and U.S.A. 2.3%) makes for a rich and varied Franco-Ontarian identity. When I sit down to translate a text written by a Haitian-Canadian, or by someone from Congo-Kinshasa, I'm translating not just their French, but their world-view. Being a translator in Toronto means I'm constantly seeing the world through new eyes.
Franco-Ontarian day is more of an international celebration that you might think. So when planning your festivities, remember that Côtes du Rhone also goes pretty well with akkra or tagine.