History

British Columbia's Francophones have actively participated in the development of the province by establishing institutions that would later serve as springboards for future societies.

When Alexander Mackenzie, the first European to cross the Rockies, reached the Pacific in 1793, he was accompanied by six French Canadian voyageurs. A few years later, more than 20 French Canadians traveled with Simon Fraser on the series of voyages that would lead to the construction of several forts in the region for the Northwest Company. By 1812, more than 300 French Canadians were engaged in the fur trade and farming. They were the first settlers of British Columbia. Along with the Church, they built a host society for those who would later settle in the area.

Following the Gold Rush and the massive influx of immigrants at the end of the 19th century, Francophones quickly found themselves in the minority. Isolated from one another, they did not form communities until the arrival in 1909 of Quebec families recruited by the owners of Fraser Mills. A community of Francophone workers took root along the banks of the Fraser River east of Vancouver, and founded the first French-language parish in British Columbia. Known as Notre Dame de Lourdes, the parish grew and the community took on the name Maillardville. The French-speaking population of Maillardville expanded, fed to a large extent by a stream of migration from Willow Bunch in Saskatchewan. The establishment of military training centres on the west coast during the war attracted large numbers of Francophone recruits, many of whom settled permanently in British Columbia, thus contributing to the vitality of French in the province.

However, assimilation pressures rapidly made themselves felt. British Columbia's Francophones had to fight hard and long for education in French: the Fédération canadienne-française de Colombie-Britannique (FCFCB) - now renamed the Fédération des Francophones de la Colombie-Britannique (FFCB) - was created in 1945 in a context of struggle for the survival of French in an environment that was extremely hostile to education in French. It was not until 1969 that the provincial government accepted the testing of a French immersion program in a public school. Francophones have had access to a French education program since 1977. The School Act was amended in July 1997 in response to the Vickers decision handed down in August 1996. The provincial government announced in April 1998 that the French-language school board would have jurisdiction through-out the province as of July 1, 1999.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, relations with the provincial government have clearly improved. In 2006, the province signed for the second time an agreement with the Government of Canada on official languages promotion. Since 2001, the province appoints an MLA Responsible for Francophone Affairs.