Sauvons Saint-Jean – standing beside Franco-Albertans

The only Francophone university in Alberta may need to cut 44% of its programs and this will have ripple effects throughout the Canadian Francophone community.

Isabelle Laurin, the director of L’Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA), said that budget cuts to the Campus Saint-Jean, the University of Alberta’s French-language campus, touch the heart of the province’s Francophone community. 

Campus Saint-Jean offers nine undergraduate programs within the Faculté Saint-Jean and four college programs at the Centre Collégial de l'Alberta. Faculté Saint-Jean also offers transdisciplinary graduate programs. Its mandate is to serve the Francophone community of Alberta and other western provinces and territories, as well as students graduating from French Immersion programs. 

Already under-funded, the university has lost 13% of its budget since December, which means many programs will be cut and some students won’t be able to complete their degrees on campus.

ACFA launched a campaign on May 12th to tell Canadians what’s at stake. They are hosting a series of virtual town halls in both English and French and asking community members to write letters to Premier Jason Kenney and Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides.

Alberta's Francophone population is among the fastest-growing in Canada. It has the third-largest minority Francophone population, after Ontario and New Brunswick, and the third-largest community of French-speaking newcomers outside Quebec, after Ontario and British Columbia. The number of Albertans who call French their mother tongue has increased by 31% since 2001. 

This has created an increase in the demand for services in French. Alberta has 42 French-language schools. Enrollment has doubled in the last 20 years and is expected to double again by 2030. Enrollment in French immersion programs is also growing, seeing a 60% increase since 2001. 

A 2019 study, commissioned by the Commissioner of Official Languages, found a chronic shortage of French-as-a-second-language teachers in Canada. Campus Saint-Jean plays an important role in training teachers who work all over the country, and developing the skills of a much-needed bilingual workforce. 

The ACFA’s campaign is supported by other groups. The Société Nationale de l'Acadie said in a press release yesterday that their members stand beside Franco-Albertans in the Sauvons Saint-Jean campaign. 

As an Anglophone Canadian who was born in Alberta, I’ll stand there too. 

Catherine Fisher, blogger