French-language forum promotes bilingualism in Canada

Twenty-four fluently bilingual high-school students from across Canada will travel to Toronto later this week to attend a special forum at Glendon. The annual National Ambassador Youth Forum, which runs from Feb. 9 to 12, is hosted by French for the Future, an organization that promotes bilingualism in Canada.

The four-day event is a chance for students, who have shown leadership in promoting bilingualism and biculturalism at home, to come together and learn more through workshops, mentoring and cultural events. The workshops will enable the student ambassadors to interact with local politicians, media personalities and members of the business community. The idea is that these same students can then motivate other students in their home communities to pursue bilingualism. 

Internationally renowned author John Ralston Saul (right), one of the founders of French for the Future, will be the keynote speaker Feb. 9.

"This program continues to be highly popular,” says Lisa Balfour Bowen, who managed the event in 1997. “Our activities get kids out of the classroom and provide them with the opportunity to rub shoulders with professionals using French in the real world."  

Participants will visit the CN Tower and Toronto City Hall, attend a French-language play, tour the Royal Ontario Museum and dine at a French restaurant in Toronto.  

Anne Kothawala, president of the Canadian Newspaper Association since 1999, says: "It’s not just a smart career move [to learn French]; mastering a second language enriches every aspect of your life." Kothawala is a graduate of Toronto’s Lawrence Park Collegiate and a bilingual product of the first Toronto immersion cohort. 

Past participant Thomas Baker of Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore District High had this to say after attending a forum: “Choosing to enroll in French immersion was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it has opened doors and created possibilities that I never thought possible.”  

French for the Future was created after the Quebec referendum of 1995 to promote linguistic duality in Canada. The group stresses the positive social and career benefits bilingualism creates for students enrolled in French first- and second-language courses. Founding members include Ralston Saul, former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall, former RBC Chair John Cleghorn and Balfour Bowen, a former Toronto journalist.  

For more information, visit the conference Web site at