Courtesy Les Francos oublié.es

Ahdithya Visweswaran et Janie Moyen

She is Fransaskois and grew up in Saint-Augustin-de-Mirabel, Quebec. He is Franco-Manitoban, an Indo-Canadian immigrant from French immersion. What brings them together? Their passion for the French language.

Through their new podcast, Les Francos forgotten, Janie Moyen and Ahdithya Visweswaran wish to shine the spotlight on Francophone youth living outside Quebec, its diverse accents, its reality and its daily challenges as a minority population in the rest of Canada. And on the fact that it is not only Franco-Quebecers who are fighting linguistic insecurity. Together, they confide in their identity as Francophones and their relationship to this language that they love so much.

French, language of the heart … and of the country

“For me, speaking French really means integrating myself into Canadian society, given that I am an immigrant and my parents do not speak both official languages,” explains Ahdithya Visweswaran. They only speak English. For me, it really is a feeling (of being) Canadian. ”

Ahdithya is a second year Bachelor of Secondary Education student at the Saint-Jean Campus of the University of Alberta. Born in the United States, he eventually learned French when he arrived in Manitoba. For the 19-year-old, speaking French is therefore an important part of the feeling of belonging to his adopted country.

Janie Moyen, for her part, has a very affectionate relationship with the language of Molière. “For my part, speaking French is speaking the language of my heart,” recounts the first year student in the bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration at the University of Ottawa.

“It’s my first language, but it’s also the language I like the most. It’s a difficult language, but I still think it’s worth learning it, ”she says with conviction.

Ahdithya and Janie met in Halifax in 2019 at the Pan-Canadian Youth Forum, an event organized by the French Canadian Youth Federation. This federation brings together francophone organizations from across Canada. They attended a workshop on podcast creation and befriended them. Subsequently, Ahdithya contacted Janie and together they decided to start their own project independently: Forgotten Francos.

Courtesy Les Francos oublié.es

Poster of the podcast, the forgotten Francos, created by Alexie Johnson.

Experiencing linguistic insecurity on a daily basis

And what is it like to be a young person from the Francophone minority community in the rest of Canada?

“It’s extremely difficult,” says Janie. I think it’s just as much a source of pride for me, [qu’une] source of constant challenges. ” Even while going to university in French, by speaking French with her parents, she says she forgot certain words, lost vocabulary.

«It is a constant challenge to counter assimilation. To have to be bilingual, but not to lose either of my two languages. “

Ahdithya, he adds, explaining that two types of forces put pressure on young Francophones outside Quebec, so-called external and internal forces.

“Here in Alberta, the government is underfunding my university, a francophone university, Campus Saint-Jean. So there is constantly this fear on the part of young Francophones that our identity is being torn from us, ”he explains. He adds that although he is registered on the French-speaking campus of his university, it can be difficult to access all the courses he wants to have, because the groups of students are sometimes too small. He must therefore, against his will, take some of his courses in English.

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“Then there are also internal forces, such as linguistic insecurity and elitism in the Francophonie.” There are so many forces that want us not to have this francophone pride, that we don’t keep our identity as francophone, ”he laments.

Some young people may also fear being teased if they speak French, according to Ahdithya, or “being judged for our accents or the way we speak”.

«But Janie and I, with the podcast, our goal is really to persevere, to show that our Francophonie can be something everyday, that we can speak French regardless of our situation. ”

Quebecers, not the only ones fighting for the French language

For Janie, the linguistic insecurity of Francophones outside Quebec is also experienced at her university, but it goes beyond simply the language in which her courses are given. Rather, it represents itself through the content presented to it.

«For me, the University of Ottawa, for my political science and public administration program, is the best university, because it is in the national capital. It is in the center of Canadian politics. But we’re not talking about that; we’re talking about Quebec, ”she regrets.

According to her, this shows “how the universities – and I am pretty sure that this is not an accident or an isolated incident – do not promote francophones outside Quebec”.

Courtesy Les Francos oublié.es

Janie Moyen et Ahdithya Visweswaran

The two young people would like the people of Quebec to recognize the legitimacy of francophone communities outside Quebec. Janie and Ahdithya want Quebeckers to realize that the fight for the protection of the French language extends far beyond the Belle Province and that the various Francophone communities across Canada are somehow interdependent.

«We need you as much as you need us. Because even Quebec has a hard time keeping the French language alive, says Janie. Then we, we know what it is, to fight for our language. We know what to fight to keep our “slang”, then we know what to fight against linguistic insecurity. ”

Their accents may be different, but “Basically, we’re francophone too, we understand exactly what you’re saying. We would like our Francophonie not to be invalidated when we talk to you, ”adds Ahdithya.

Reconcile two – or four? – solitudes

According to the young man, the fact of reconciling the Francophone and Anglophone communities in Canada – the “two solitudes” – must first and foremost involve better promotion of the various cultures present in Canada, a broadening of our definition of multiculturalism.

Our definition of this concept is too narrow, he believes. “It’s only celebrations in the summer, when we dance, when we eat great food from every culture. But other than that, we don’t make any effort to promote these different cultures. This is why these two solitudes are so present in our Canadian culture. ”

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If we continue to see Canada only as two separate entities, we will continue to push racism.Ahdithya Visweswaran

As long as we do not find a way to solve the problem of racism and xenophobia in Canada, we cannot reconcile these two solitudes, according to him; it also questions the raison d’être of these two linguistic entities.

“We should have three solitudes, or even four. Anglophones, Francophones, Aboriginals and also people who are newcomers everywhere in Canada. Because if we continue to see Canada only as two separate entities, we will continue to push racism, ”he says.

Janie nods enthusiastically. She adds that it is crucial that when you enter a space frequented by people from a community other than your own – whether linguistic or ethnic – you have to know how to be open-minded. We should not try to force our reality on others.

“As a white person, when I go to a space of racialized people, black people, indigenous people, it’s up to me to ‘shut my mouth’ and understand that it’s not up to me to dictate my reality. “, she says. “It’s really knowing when to listen and when to speak.”

Generation Z: the solution?

The “Gen Z”, that of Janie and Ahdithya, will she be the one that will move things forward from a linguistic point of view in Canada?

The two young people believe that this segment of the population cannot be the only one to bear the burden of change; and shouldn’t be. It must be an intergenerational effort.

“We’re not the ones in the institutions,” says Janie. We are not the ones who have the bacc. We are getting to this point. [Même] if we ask for this change and everyone echoes it, we need people who know how to bring about this change, ”she says with conviction.

“Systemic racism is something that exists and that people in positions of power like Mr. Legault do not listen to, and continue to deny this reality that exists in Quebec, which exists throughout Canada in general. There is nothing we can do, ”laments Ahdithya.

“We cannot move forward as a society. Because yes, the young people will continue to whine, and the adults will just put their hands over their ears and not listen. ”

Through their podcast Forgotten Francos, Ahdithya and Janie talk about accents, the compartmentalization of Francophone communities, elitism, but also discrimination, colonization, “whitewashing”, mental health. They approach social issues through the prism of the French language, in order to instill a sense of pride in Francophone youth and give them back a space that is rightfully theirs. And unite these voices that we hear too little, according to them, to try to right the injustices, one episode at a time.

We can listen to the podcast Forgotten Francos, product en collaboration with the Franco-Ontarian organization the alarm (for the rest of the season), on platforms Breaker, Pocket Casts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Anchor.

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