The Franco-Ontarian flag no longer flies at Greenstone

The Municipality of Greenstone has sparked a dialogue on identity, recognition and the pursuit of nation-to-nation reconciliation for Francophones in Ontario.

It is an emblem that has united generations of Franco-Ontarians. The fruit of youth, madness and daring, the Franco-Ontarian flag flew for the first time in 1975, created by an intrepid band of young men, including Michel Dupuis, Gaétan Gervais, Donald Obonsawin, Normand Rainville and my father, Yves Tassé.

It was born out of a tumultuous and hopeful decade of francophone resistance and community building in Ontario. A time when Francophones sought to define themselves as a society and as full citizens of this province.

But last week, in an “icy slide⁠1 » for Franco-Ontarians, the municipality of Greenstone, near Thunder Bay, voted in favor of permanently removing the Franco-Ontarian flag from the city’s flagpoles.

​​ “The goal of the policy is to show equality and reconciliation,” said Greenstone Mayor James McPherson, in an effort to advance reconciliation efforts with the six First Nations in the region and ensure that “all groups are recognized equally”.

As they say in French Ontario: Seal wadding.

“To believe that the paths to reconciliation necessarily pass through the negation of Franco-Ontarian identity,” writes Mehdi Mehenni in the newspaper The traveler⁠2. “Which amounts to repairing one injustice with another. »

Certainly, reconciliation must progress in Canada’s two official languages, wherever they are spoken. And it must recognize – and not erase – the existence of Indigenous Franco-Ontarians. Like Donald Obonsawin, one of the fathers of the Franco-Ontarian flag, who also comes from the Abenaki nation in Quebec.

In an interview with Radio-Canada⁠3historian Serge Dupuis explains that the town of Greenstone could fly the Ontario flag under the Canadian flag, thus freeing up a flagpole for the permanent display of the Franco-Ontarian flag and flags representing Indigenous communities.

“We give the impression that the Ontario flag is a unifying symbol,” continues Serge Dupuis. “However, when we know the history of this flag and the symbols it contains, it is still a colonial flag; we are trying to recover the British symbol of the Union Jack. » The need to create Franco-Ontarian and Indigenous flags, he adds, was born from the feeling of not being sufficiently represented by this flag.

Erasing the Franco-Ontarian experience

If Mayor James McPherson initially maintained that this measure was intended to promote equality and reconciliation with local First Nations communities, it erased the Franco-Ontarian experience and our responsibility for reconciliation.

Greenstone has since opened the door to a conversation, which she should have done from the start.

Greenstone’s Franco-Ontarians have mobilized, consulting with area First Nations, displaying the flag in French-speaking homes and businesses, and organizing a deputation to be heard by city council later this month.

The City’s decision highlights the need for a nuanced, consultative and inclusive approach – one that respects and celebrates the unique histories, diasporas and cultures that Franco-Ontarians bring to the mosaic of our province.

Reconciliation requires inclusion. And the consultation. By engaging Franco-Ontarians, Greenstone could set an example. And bring about social transformations in favor of reconciliation.

1. Read “The Franco-Ontarian flag loses its permanent status: Chilling slide in Greenstone”

2. Read “The Revisionist Temptation”

3. Read “The Franco-Ontarian flag will no longer fly permanently at Greenstone”


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