The Fédération Franco-Ténoise welcomed some of Yellowknife’s newest francophone arrivals at a bilingual reception and city tour Saturday afternoon.
The group of close to a dozen initially gathered in the Multiplex to receive packages of tourism guides, Yellowknife memorabilia and lists of city resources as well as an opportunity to ask questions of Mayor Rebecca Alty.
Alty told the newcomers about ways of getting involved, from YK dance groups and Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) performances, to the benefits of living in a place where one can go for a ski during a lunch break.
The group then filed into a school bus to take a tour of Giant Mine, Old Town, the legislative assembly, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, downtown and the Yellowknife dump – where the tour’s youngest member took possession of a new set of wheels for the upcoming bike season.
The event was part of a federal funding initiative seeking to support francophone minority communities across Canada.
In 2018, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) named 14 Canadian cities to receive a collective $12.6 million over three years. The funding comes through the Action Plan for Official Languages 2018-2023: Investing in our Future announced in Budget 2018.
Cécile Fagot, the Fédération Franco-Ténoise’s coordinator of the welcoming francophone communities program, said for newcomers to stay in Yellowknife, it’s important to help develop their sense of belonging to the community. Though French is listed as one of 11 official languages of the NWT, she said growing roots requires more than translated documents.
“Having (French) services is not enough to keep people living in Yellowknife,” she said.
“We also need to be able to have activities in French, going to the theatre, etcetera, because for those not able to understand English, how do they create relationships and live in the community?”
That’s why in addition to guides on multilingual services and resources in health care and employment, for example, the program also prioritizes recreational activities. Fagot lists aurora viewing as one such activity where participants can better understand the culture and history of their new home.
She said new francophones can also sign up to be paired with residents in “the twinning program” to form friendships, learn about social events and build connections within the community.
“It helps to stay when you have those friendships,” she said. “I think it’s a pretty amazing program for the newcomers.”
The IRCC program runs until 2023, at which point Fagot hopes to see a renewal of funds with more research to inform how to make the program successful.
Still, newcomers like Llyanina Lora said since arriving in December from the Dominican Republic, Yellowknife “has been even better than we thought.”
“So far it’s been a great city,” she said.