Premier's Statement to the Legislature on Regulation 17
NOTES FOR A STATEMENT TO THE LEGISLATURE
BY THE HONOURABLE KATHLEEN WYNNE
PREMIER OF ONTARIO
ON REGULATION 17
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to accomplish two important tasks.
First, to deliver on a promise I made in December to "speak truth" about a government regulation that effectively outlawed public French-language education for a generation of schoolchildren one century ago.
Second, I wish to recognize how far our province has come since that time.
Today, Francophone culture is something to be celebrated.
Francophone communities have helped Ontario grow into a vibrant and prosperous province.
And in 2015, we had a chance to celebrate 400 years of French presence in Ontario.
To celebrate 400 years of French presence in Ontario last year, our government undertook a variety of initiatives to increase awareness of the history of Franco-Ontarians, the advances they have made and the barriers they have overcome.
Today, I want to acknowledge Regulation 17 as one of those barriers.
Regulation 17 was introduced in 1912.
In 1912, Regulation 17 prohibited primary schools from using French as a language of instruction or communication beyond grade 2, allowing only one hour per day for French to be taught as a subject in primary schools.
Francophone parents and teachers at bilingual schools fiercely opposed Regulation 17.
Many resisted, continuing to instruct students in French.
The community was further outraged when the government set strict penalties for non-compliance with the provisions of Regulation 17.
Schools that continued to teach in French would lose their funding.
Teachers would lose their certification.
The Francophone community feared that Franco-Ontarian children were losing their language.
So Francophones strengthened their resolve and mobilized politically, in the press and in the courts.
The French-language daily newspaper Le Droit was founded in 1913 with the express mission of opposing Regulation 17.
102 years later, Le Droit remains a pillar of the Francophone community.
As self-funded French schools ran out of money, they were forced to either deliver the public curriculum or close their doors.
The government enforced Regulation 17 for more than a decade before finally conceding that the policy was a failure, but it stayed on the books much longer.
Today, on behalf of the Government of Ontario, I offer an apology to all Franco-Ontarians whose families and communities were affected by Regulation 17.
Regulation 17 showed a disregard for Franco-Ontarian identity, and equality and on behalf of the Government of Ontario, I offer an apology.
I also want to thank Minister Madeleine Meilleur for her tireless efforts to promote, protect and preserve the Francophone presence in Ontario.
I am pleased that we are joined today by those whose families and communities were affected by Regulation 17 and whose advocacy helped bring this chapter of our history to the attention of this Legislature.
For this, I want to recognize representatives of the Association canadienne-français de l'Ontario du grand Sudbury and its President, Denis Constantineau.
On behalf of the Government of Ontario, I want to thank you.
The tremendous courage and tenacity of Franco-Ontarians has not gone unnoticed.
Your efforts have helped Ontario to come a remarkably long way over the past 100 years -- from the shameful introduction of Regulation 17 in 1912 to the celebratory passage of the French Language Services Act in 1986.
We can all be proud of the distance our province has travelled.
In just a few generations Ontario has gone from a place resistant of diversity to a place that fully embraces different cultures and languages -- from fearing our differences to celebrating and learning from them.
Today, we acknowledge that Ontario would not be the beacon of pluralism and diversity we are so proud of if not for the courage and tenacity of our Francophone brothers and sisters.
And with this, the achievements of Franco-Ontarians give us great hope that our society will continue to acknowledge the truth about our past and the hard won victories, because that is how we can continue to build equality, expand opportunity, and give every community the respect, recognition and resources that we all deserve.