La Société Francophone de Victoria began around a kitchen table in 1941, now it is a home away from home for some 300 French speaking individuals in Greater Victoria.
Some 30,000 people in the region say they speak French regularly.
“There are close to 11,000 children,” says Francophone Society president Pauline Gobeil. “More than 20 per cent of children are in French Immersion in Victoria.”
A not-for-profit organization that promotes, represents and advocates for the French language and francophone culture in Greater Victoria, the society offers employment preparation, job search assistance and serves as a gathering place for the Francophone community. It also coordinates French-language events, including the popular French Fest March 5 to 8.
“Initially when the festival started it was mainly for Quebec French culture, as it went on – it’s in its 18th edition now – there has been more immigration and migration, so we’ve brought in performers from Africa,” says Gobeil.
The four-day festival attracts some 7,000 people to a variety of events including an opening night concert featuring the traditional Québécois music of Le Bal à l’huile, performing songs from their newest album T’en souviens-tu? at the Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad St, on March 5 at 7:30pm.
“It’s something we share with everybody, not only French speaking, it’s open,” says past president Christian Francey. “It’s something we want to give everybody through our culture and our language. … we party together.”
March 7 and 8 Centennial Square will be a hive of activity with performances by Victoria artist Sam Weber; African drum and dance project Kikeyambay; Wontanara Drum & Dance; the Malahat Swing Cats; Mimosa, a jazz-French quartet with Brazilian influence and trumpeter and composer Olivier Clements. Free family activities will also be available including traditional French foods; Francophone artisans and information; a kids zone with a bouncy castle, balloons, face painting and more.
March 8 the celebration continues with a traditional Sugar Shack brunch at Ambrosia at 10:30am. The brunch offers a great opportunity to discover traditional French Canadian maple syrup-based dishes. In honour of International Women’s day, three women who have been committed to the community for many years, will be presented with awards on stage at Centennial Square.
“The French culture is not just from one county,” says Gobeil. “It’s very rich. What we have in common is our language but we all have different cultures we attach to it – but we all like getting together and having a good time.”
Tickets for Le Bal à l’huile and the brunch are on sale at the SFV office: 200-535 Yates Street – 250 388-7350. Go to francocentre.com for more information.