Coming together
Yellowknife schools celebrate French week

Scott Crabbe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( Mar 03/00) - From Cirque du Soleil (circus of the sun) to la Louisianne (Cajun culture), students of Yk No. 1 school district let their hair down to celebrate French week.

"It's really a time to celebrate the French culture," said Lilly Oldham, Yellowknife school district supervisor of instruction (languages).

Throughout the week, events highlighting the rich and colourful 'la culture francaise' were held throughout the district's elementary, middle and high schools. Magicians and clowns kept the crowds enlightened and entertained, while different themes painted the hallways and foyers with cultural tradition.

"We wanted to associate something fun with the French culture," said Janis Reynolds, a French teacher for grades 1 through 5 at N.J. Macpherson.

The school based its celebration around the Cirque du Soleil. Events included high-flying acrobatics, sugar cone clown construction, face painting and bingo.

"The theme was created through the week (prior) with the help of other staff. Other parents came and helped volunteer with different events today," said Reynolds.

Range Lake North celebrated the culture through culinary concoctions in conjunction with La Louisianne, a Cajun celebration.

"They had Mardi Gras celebrations and hot sauce tasting competitions." Oldham said.

The celebration and recognition of the French culture throughout the community is a sign of an increasing awareness towards the francophone community. Communities in other Canadian cities are well established with a variety of national ties.

"They had to fight to get where they are now. When you're part of a minority group every day is a fight," explained Daniel Lamoureux, Yellowknife unit president of the Federation des communautes francophones et acadiennes du Canada (FCFA).

"They give us spirit and hope."

Presently, Yk No. 1 school students take core French classes, with French immersion offered as an option beginning in Grade 4.

"A student taking core French courses (from Grade 1 to 12) should be able to write and speak French vocabulary," Reynolds said.

"A person taking French immersion should be able to function in a francophone community."

French immersion classes began in 1979 with only 20 Grade 4 students. French week celebrations were first held in 1982, beginning at Mildred Hall. Today, there are 460 students enrolled in French immersion classes, and 70 students at Ecole Allain St-Cyr (all-French speaking school), with francophone week celebrations spanning the district.