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French-language group reflects on past, predicts new growth on West Shore

Victoria Francophone Society receives $23K to increase family resources
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Casey Edmunds, executive director of the Victoria Francophone Society, hopes new funding and partnerships will help unite Greater Victoria’s French-speaking residents. (Tegwyn Hughes/News Staff)

A local society dedicated to expanding French services in Greater Victoria is celebrating a major anniversary, new funding and a return to some in-person programming as it enters the new year.

On Nov. 5, the province announced $250,000 in funding for local non-profit organizations serving francophone communities across British Columbia, one of which was the Victoria Francophone Society. The Society promotes, represents and defends French language and culture in the region and was given $23,000 to add resources for young families on the south Island, with a focus on the West Shore.

The funding will help it integrate French language into recreation activities in partnership West Shore Parks and Recreation – such things as dance classes, theatre courses and art workshops.

The funding was the cherry on top of a growth-filled year, society executive director Casey Edmunds told Black Press Media.

“It’s about people speaking French in Victoria – they don’t need to be speaking French (in our office). They could be doing it while walking around Thetis Lake or while doing a dance class at Juan de Fuca,” he said.

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The society’s motivation to expand its services outside the downtown core – where their office is located – was only heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmunds said. Most recently, the resurgence of cases spurred by the Omicron variant forced the society to cancel the Jeux de la francophonie canadienne, which were slated to take place in Victoria.

Early in the pandemic, as public venues shuttered and residents isolated, the group found new strength in online spaces.

“(COVID-19) was a really eye-opening experience,” Edmunds said. “We understand that not everything that’s French speaking happens in downtown Victoria and Bastion Square. It happens in homes, in schools and in communities.”

These new avenues come on the heels of the society’s 80th anniversary. For Edmunds, who’s been involved with the organization for two years, the milestone invites reflection.

“The 80th anniversary was about remembering who we were at the beginning,” he said. “We were a club of people who met to speak French, to defend the language and to assure our rights, but then also to celebrate all the beauty of our language, our history and our culture.”

Those values remain today, despite the society’s growth and evolution. Now, moving into 2022, Edmunds hopes to bring the same ideals to newer venues.

“I’d love to see the Francophone society claim its space within the arts and culture community by bringing French talent and French art to Victoria,” he said.

For now, the director and his team are focused on saying au revoir to 2021 and planning for an action-packed year ahead.

To learn more about the Victoria Francophone Society, visit their website at sfvictoria.ca or drop by their office at 1218 Langley St.

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Do you have a story tip? Email: tegwyn.hughes@blackpress.ca.

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