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Francophones consider F.H. Collins merger

The Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon is consulting the French community on whether they want a high school on the site of the new F.H. Collins school.

The Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon is consulting the French community on whether they want a high school on the site of the new F.H. Collins school.

After years and millions of dollars in planning, the government scrapped plans for the new building when bids on the project came in at least $10 million over budget.

Education Minister Scott Kent approached the school board in March to float the idea of including a French school in the new designs.

“Yukoners need to know that nothing has been decided. It’s obviously a very complex issue with a number of different aspects to it,” said Kent.

The discussions won’t delay plans to replace F.H. Collins, he said.

“We just want to make sure that if the community, the francophone community as well at the F.H. Collins community, is interested in proceeding with this, that we choose a design that gives us some flexibility, should that decision be made to incorporate French first language on site.”

The French school board has planned a public meeting for next week to discuss the proposal.

It has already consulted with students and staff at Ecole Emilie-Tremblay, said Lorraine Taillefer, executive director of the board.

“I’m hearing both sides, of course. If I talk to parents I’m hearing a whole lot more of people wanting that option than anything else. Students have given us both sides and they are quite divided, actually, as to the two options.”

The second option is to hold out for the territory to deliver a high school for the francophone community that is totally independent. A court battle on that question was heard by the Yukon Supreme Court last year, which has yet to release a decision.

There are many potential downsides to sharing space with F.H. Collins, said Taillefer.

“Losing the language is a big one. Losing the culture, because the more you mix with a majority group, the more it becomes dangerous to lose your own culture and language. And also what many of us, including myself, have lived in the past is to be treated like second-class citizens. Meaning, to be given the leftovers. If you have to share spaces, to just have what’s left.”

But joining on to the F.H. Collins plans could mean French students get a high school faster, and it would be practical to share some of the expensive facilities, such as industrial arts, said Taillefer. And mingling with anglophones isn’t all bad, she said.

“Even though they would have their school, their space, their infrastructure, they would be able to have, for example, lunch with their colleagues, their English friends or their French immersion friends.”

The school board is pleased that the government has recognized the need for a francophone school, she said.

“The main factor is that a high school is needed for the French students. There is no doubt. And that, the government is now recognizing. And that, for us, that’s a major point. Now from that understanding, what do we do?”

There are about 46 students in grades 7-12 at Emilie-Tremblay right now, and that number could grow to 150 over the coming years, said Taillefer.

The public meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on April 16 at the Ecole Emilie-Tremblay gym.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at