Louis Riel’s dream, an anthem without French?

Louis Riel’s dream, an anthem without French?
Louis Riel’s dream, an anthem without French?

When I learned that the Canadian national anthem had been sung in Punjabi and English (but without French) in Winnipeg on December 17, before a Jets game, I immediately thought of Robert Loiselle .

In October, I spent more than an hour with this new NDP MP from Saint-Boniface at Café Le Croissant, in the heart of Winnipeg’s French-speaking neighborhood.

A dynamic and eloquent man, Loiselle, a French-speaking mixed race inhabited by the history of his people, floated on a cloud: “Louis Riel’s dream is within reach,” he dared.

In other words, the hope of a province where the development of Métis and First Nations would be encouraged, and where French would be protected and could develop. When Manitoba was founded in 1870, there were “95% mixed-race French speakers,” recalls the new MP.

Kinew, the first

Its leader, Wab Kinew, made history this fall by becoming the first premier of a province from the First Nations. Quebecers also knew him after his appearance in end-of-year programs on Radio-Canada.

Kinew is not mixed race, but belongs to the Onigaming Ojibwe Nation in northern Ontario.

“His people and mine were allies, at the founding of Manitoba, we still are,” Loiselle proudly emphasizes.

In addition, Kinew speaks French since he spent part of his school career in an immersion school.

“French is one of our priorities: every time the Prime Minister and I speak, we speak in French.”

It has been a very long time since Manitoba had a head of government capable of speaking French to his fellow French-speaking citizens.

“Damn that feels good,” said Loiselle after the video broadcast of a speech by her leader in French, before the general assembly of the Société de la francophonie manitobaine (SFB), on October 12.


In short, in Manitoba, we sense a certain wind of optimism for French. French-speaking schools, after decades of legal and financial battles, are finally well established and overflowing.

Francophone immigration is growing. The new official languages ​​law now aims for “real equality between the official languages ​​of Canada”.

The weekly Freedom experienced something of a renaissance. Associations like the SFB are alive and defending the rights to services in French.

Political scientist Raymond Hébert goes so far as to say that today’s Franco-Manitobans benefit from quasi-“institutional completeness”, that is to say different institutions in almost all areas.

For “completeness” to be complete, however, there is a lack, by its own admission, of real health services in French. But Wab Kinew’s NDP promised to work on it. Moreover, Kinew introduced and passed a law making Louis Riel the “first premier of Manitoba.”

Bilingualism c. multiculturalism

This is why I wanted to talk to Robert Loiselle again, after the erasure of French in the national anthem at the Canada Life Center (where the Jets play), on December 17. On the other end of the line, he was initially cautious.

“I know the Jets are very receptive to multiculturalism, that’s good. But we must never forget that bilingualism at the national level, at least in my opinion, should take precedence over multiculturalism.”

Coincidentally, he was attending the game between the Jets and the Canadiens that evening in Winnipeg. “I will listen to the national anthem and tomorrow I will call you back,” he promises me.

On the 19th, in a text message accompanied by a video, he pointed out to me that French had been brought back in the national anthem, which was sung “by a beautiful choir”, he underlines. He was telling the truth.

But when we listen to the video, we realize that only two sentences out of nine were in Riel’s language: “Your story is an epic/Of the most brilliant exploits.” At least that’s it.

However, we have the impression that “Riel’s dream” of “real equality” still seems very far away; just like a simple renaissance of the French fact in Manitoba.



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