For Cecile Girard, the executive director of l’Aurore boreale, winning two awards from l’Association de la presse francophone was “very exciting.”
“It’s the only occasion that we have to be recognized among newspapers with the same reality,” she said.
As one of the smallest publications in the minority French-language category, the fact that l’Aurore boreale won top prize for excellence in French is very significant, said Girard.
While most of the newspapers it was competing against have a full contingent of staff to generate and edit copy, l’Aurore boreale has only one full-time journalist.
Even Girard only works for the paper part time.
To pick up the slack, l’Aurore boreale relies on a pool of earnest freelancers and volunteers.
“The entire team is quite dedicated to giving the best all the time,” she said. “I know it’s corny but that’s what it is.”
The paper also won an award for its coverage of the fight between the francophone school board and the Yukon government.
The Yukon Supreme Court ordered the government to build a new French high school and pay $2 million to the board after the court found the government had been diverting funding from francophone education to pay for the territory’s French immersion program.
Last year, the government appealed the decision, which is still before the court.
It was a story that hit a nerve within the territory’s French-speaking community, said Girard.
“Education, it’s always been a big topic,” she said. “People have young kids, and very often they wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t a French school.”
L’Aurore boreale began publishing in 1983.
Originally conceived as the voice of the Association franco-yukonnaise, the paper has since developed its own independent editorial line, said Girard, who has been working on the paper since its inception.
“We’re trying to be the voice of the francophones that are here today,” she said, “to express their concerns and give them a forum and a place to have a look more deeply at topics that interest them.”
Although it only has a circulation of 1,000, the bimonthly publication has subscribers all over Canada and beyond.
Keeping a subscription to the paper is a way for francophones, and francophiles, to maintain a link with the North, said Girard.
“We used to have some (subscribers) in Hong Kong but I think we lost those a couple of years ago,” she said.
French-speaking people have had a presence in the Yukon since the turn of the century, but their cultural influence didn’t last long, said Girard.
It wasn’t until the territory’s francophone community began to organize in the 1980s that their presence was felt again, and l’Aurore boreale was an essential part of that revival, she said.
“We don’t know where newspapers are going these days but we still all need to archive our past, and newspapers are doing that all over this country.”
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