Having a French background in Windsor is an odd experience. My family is rooted in the French-Canadian culture. My grandfather moved from a little town near Sudbury called Noëlville, which translates to “Christmas Town” though it has no connection to the holiday (that I know of). The town consists of a small population of French speaking individuals, but my family goes there almost every year for an annual family baseball tournament. It is our home away from home. Whilst we visit our family in my grandfather’s hometown, I start to miss my culture.
The French culture in Windsor is lacking. If you look hard enough, you will find members of the community. However, even that has gotten harder in recent years. There used to be a few locations in Windsor for the French community to meet and hold events, such as the banquet hall on Central Avenue that used to be known as Club Alouette. Having gone through the French education system, plenty of my school events were held in this building. Halloween parties, club events, and even my eighth grade graduation took place at Club Alouette. The club could not raise enough money to stay open and closed about 5 years ago. With one location dedicated to the French community gone, my family and I flocked to Place Concorde, another banquet hall and meeting place for the French Community.
Every year, my family and I would go to brunch on Easter morning at Place Concorde. I remember how great it was to see my grandfather in his element, talking to his friends, and enjoying time with his family all in his native tongue. Place Concorde holds lots of great memories for my family. We have even had family wedding receptions at this hall. But Place Concorde was taken over by a branch of Collège Boréal, a French college, a few years ago. The building is still under French influence, but it no longer allows community access to the same degree as before. The community lost another location in which they could freely express their culture. Easter is not the same anymore. The community conducts the occasional event (not during quarantine, of course) in other locations, but they do not hold the same significance.
The French community is slowly losing parts of itself to its English counterpart. The school system is flawed. Because we live in a dominantly English place, the children struggle to connect what they have learnt in school to their lives outside of class. My teachers had to enforce speaking the French language in school. We were constantly docked marks for getting caught speaking English, but it was hard to stay motivated. The world outside of school did not encourage our language. I remember getting called a “Frenchie” by two young boys during an event for my French scouts’ group. Though the name itself meant nothing, the derogatory tone in which it was said told me all I needed to know. Us kids could sense that people outside of our French community did not accept us completely, so we rebelled. We spoke English in school even at the risk of getting caught. We would take the lower marks if it meant we would fit in with society.
However, there are always consequences to our actions. Most of the students in my high school could barely speak French regardless of having attended French school since they were three or four. I hate to admit that I was (and probably still am) one of them. Without the practice, it becomes harder to recall which words you are looking for. Our accents were not what you would expect from people who supposedly spent most of their lives speaking the language. Now that I attend an English University, I miss my French culture that much more. I regret not having tried harder to keep my language. You never realize what you are missing until it is gone.
Tu me manques.