May 15th, Yukon Francophonie Day
On May 15th, residents of Yukon celebrated Journée de la francophonie yukonnaise, a day that recognizes the contributions of Francophones to the territory.
French Canadians and francophone Métis first settled on the lands of the Gwich'in, Hän, Kaska, Tutchone, Tagish, Tanana, and Tlingit people almost 200 years ago. These first visitors were fur traders working for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Later, many more Francophones, including my grandfather’s adoptive father, were lured north by the discovery of gold at Rabbit Creek in 1896. Large francophone communities developed in Dawson and Mayo at the end of the 19th century.
Today about 14% of Yukon’s population speaks French, and about 4% consider it their mother tongue. French and English are both recognized by the territorial government as official languages, as are Indigenous languages. Yukon ranks third in Canada for its rate of bilingualism, after Quebec and New Brunswick.
The Association franco-yukonnaise was created in 1982 to develop, and maintain the services, activities, and facilities necessary for a high quality of life in French throughout the Yukon. It keeps Franco-Yukonnais connected. On May 15th, the association held a Facebook live event to celebrate Yukon Francophonie Day.
A local newspaper, L'Aurore boréale also serves local Francophones, as do several French First Language and French Second Language school programs, supported by la Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon.
Cécile Girard created the Franco Yukon flag (above) in 1986. Its blue background represents the Francophonie and the Yukon's sky, the white stripes evoke the Yukon winter, and the gold line symbolizes Yukon's gold rush history and the path it laid into the territory for French-speaking people.
Catherine Fisher, blogger