The French community is rejoicing after the Liberal government announced $20 million for the construction of a French-language high school.
“It’s a great news for the (francophone) community,” said Isabelle Salesse, executive director of l’Association franco-yukonnaise. “The community has been working on this for years.”
The Liberal budget tabled April 27 includes $8 million for construction this year and $12 million next year.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitation,” said Jean-Sébastien Blais, president of the French school board. “Being supported and heard by your government is always great news.”
The community has been asking for a high school for the past decade. The primary school, École Émilie-Tremblay, is overflowing, Salesse said, because it’s also housing high school students.
The French school board sued the territorial government in 2009 arguing it failed to meet its obligations under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial in 2015, but both parties ended up putting the case on hold and started working on planning construction of the new high school.
There’s no date set for when construction would start, Blais said. But the goal is for students to be in the school for September 2019.
The new high school would be able to house 150 to 200 students. Blais said the school was designed to accommodate growth of students over the next few decades. He pointed out that École Émilie-Tremblay went from 112 students in 2005 to 240 in 2017.
The government also confirmed the school will be built on the Riverdale education reserve, between the new F.H. Collins Secondary School and Selkirk Elementary.
The French school board is also in talks with Canadian Heritage to fund a proposed theatre the entire Whitehorse community could use.
Health in French
Salesse also welcomed $14 million promised over the next three years to improve emergency and mental health services in French.
“When we’re talking about mental health, it’s extremely important to be able to talk in your own language,” she said.
It was another measure the community had been fighting for since 2003.
The problem wasn’t so much that there aren’t bilingual healthcare professionals in the territory, Salesse said, but that people don’t know where to look.
The money, which came through Canadian Heritage, will also be used to study the possibility of creating a bilingual health care clinic.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org