In focus

From here and abroad

The Festival franco-ontarien quickly becomes a crossroads of Francophone culture in Canada. Paul Demers, Robert Paquette, Garolou, CANO and other Franco-Ontarian artists are soon joined by Acadian musicians, Franco-Manitoban singers and Fransaskois groups. More and more, Quebec singers step up to the festival stage. Richard Séguin, Sylvain Lelièvre, Michel Rivard, Paul Piché and even the great Gilles Vigneault, for example, perform at the 1983 edition. Louisiana is invited to the Festival in the following years, and groups start to come from Africa and elsewhere in the international Francophone community.

French Ontario is part of a vast national and international assemblage of people who share the French language, which the Festival franco-ontarien hopes to reflect. The Festival’s organizers make it their mantra, for identity and political purposes, but it does not sit well with everyone. Homegrown artists must make do with playing second fiddle to better known Acadian and Quebecois performers who take centre stage, relegating Franco-Ontarians to the side stage. Quebec flags are raised at the Ginette Reno and Robert Charlebois concerts, while the media go crazy over Zachary Richard.

One thing is for certain, the formula is commercially successful. The audiences grow larger. The “Franco” becomes Canada’s biggest French cultural event outside of Quebec.