Glendon hosts French for the Future conference

A conference at Glendon exploring the benefits of learning French? Eh oui, a perfect fit, since Glendon is the only liberal arts faculty in Canada where all students study in both official languages.

On April 25, Glendon campus was the location for the ninth annual French for the Future/Le français pour l’avenir conference. Delegates from 12 cities across Canada explored the theme “Two languages – a world of possibilities”.

John Ralston Saul (left), author, essayist, historian and ardent supporter of bilingualism, delivered the keynote address. Saul and Toronto journalist Lisa Balfour Bowen founded the conference after the 1995 Quebec referendum to demonstrate their commitment to bilingualism and French language education. Their goal was to encourage Canadian youth to celebrate French language and culture.

In his remarks, Saul said French-language skills are “a tool for work as well as an instrument of pleasure.” Later he noted that there has been a noticeable increase in French immersion enrolment as Canadian parents recognize the value of a bilingual education. This trend validates the message of French for the Future conferences, he said, that being bilingual is relevant to the future of today’s students for work, for pleasure and for fostering the linguistic duality on which this country was built.

The program opened with words of welcome from Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts, followed by Chantal Gionet, co-chair of the conference’s Toronto planning committee, and Anne Kothawala, president of its board of directors. McRoberts said Glendon’s founding mandate was to provide a liberal arts education in English and in French, making the campus a living example of the conference’s objectives.

Students broke into workshops on international relations, science and technology, print and electronic media, and performing arts, each moderated by prominent specialists in the field. Philippe Delacroix, consul general of France, and Laurence Hugues, director of communications for Doctors Without Borders, led the international relations debate on the importance of speaking several languages in the global, humanitarian and diplomatic fields. Physiotherapist Line Troster and Christine Pigeon, researcher at the Ontario Science Centre, led the science and technology group. Kathryn Borel, producer of CBC’s “Metro Morning”, and Avril Benoît, host and documentary producer on CBC’s Radio One and CBC TV, led the media workshop. Guy Mignault, artistic director of the Toronto French Theatre, and local actor Stéphanie Broschart led the performing arts session on the role of French in the theatre arts. The morning concluded with an open debate on what it means to be Canadian, moderated by top civil servant Gordon McIvor, immediate past president of French for the Future.

In the afternoon, students from Toronto, Halifax, Winnipeg and Calgary exchanged views via satellite on English-French relations and the advantages of bilingualism in a session moderated by Saul. The conference continued with a panel moderated by Clare Mian, principal of John Fisher Public School, featuring grads on how bilingual skills contributed to their professional success.

This article was submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny