In focus

The legacy of Bernard Grandmaître

The preamble to the French Language Services Act (Bill 8) recognizes “the contribution of the cultural heritage of the French speakingpulation.” It also recognizes the Government of Ontario’s desire to “preserve it for future generations.” The father of Bill 8, Bernard Grandmaître, is particularly proud of this legal text, which he describes as “the most important in the history of French Ontario to have been drafted and adopted by a government of this province.”1 His biographer, Adrien Cantin, mentions that, decades later, the politician is still able to recite it almost from memory.

The preamble to Bill 8 is a fundamental statement. It compels the creation of a completely French-language college in Ottawa. The sequence of events is significant. In the spring of 1987, a task force is mandated to produce a plan of action for Algonquin College to be designated as a bilingual institution under Bill 8. The group concludes that if the college wishes to respect the spirit and letter of the law, it will be necessary to explore approaches other than bilingualism. The mandate of the task force prevents it from making specific recommendations, but the first page of its report emphasizes the unanimous position of the community in support of creating a 23rd autonomous Francophone community college.

The preamble to Bill 8 can also be credited with saving the Hôpital Montfort. The Ontario Divisional Court which heard the case is clear: closing the hospital would amount to a contravention by the Government of Ontario of its own French Language Services Act. The Court views Montfort as more than just a hospital; Montfort is a flagship of Ontario’s Francophone community, a symbol of its strength and vitality. The Court reminds the province that it is the intention of the legislators to safeguard such elements of Ottawa’s Francophone cultural heritage for generations to come.


1 Adrien Cantin, Bernard Grandmaître. Le père de la loi 8, Ottawa, Centre franco-ontarien de ressources pédagogiques, 2012, p. 47 (translated from the original).