Association franco-yukonnaise looks back on 35 years

The year 1982 was a landmark for francophones in the Yukon. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted, enshrining French language rights across the country, and an organization representing French-speaking Yukoners was born. 

Now, the Association franco-yukonnaise (L'AFY) is celebrating its 35th anniversary.

"'The association was a common place for people to get together," says Jeanne Beaudoin, an early member. 

She says one of the group's first political moves was to request free access to Radio-Canada so they could watch hockey in French. 

Much has happened since then.

L'AFY has grown from one staff member to 25 and now offers employment and training services as well as support to francophone tourism operators. 

Yukon has a French school, daycare, newspaper and a centre where French speakers and "francophiles" — people interested in French culture and language — can gather.

"I think that's a big achievement," says Beaudoin about the centre on Strickland Street in Whitehorse.  

Next generation

Now, the second generation of francophones are benefiting from L'AFY's services. 

Approximately 1,500 Yukoners speak French as a first language and about triple that number are French-English bilingual, according to Statistics Canada's 2011 census. 

"We have a very vibrant and diverse community," says Isabelle Salesse, executive director of L'AFY. 

"We have the generation who were born and raised in the Yukon now who send their kids to the French school so it's become a home." 

A party was held on Friday to celebrate all the people who contributed to the organization over the years.