Our History

Our History2018-11-29T21:29:33-05:00

Once upon a time Canadian Parents for French 

In 1977, Keith Spicer was serving as Canada’s first-ever Commissioner of Official Languages. Interested in the bilingualism of Canada’s youth, he met with groups of parents across Canada who wanted their children to learn French as a second language (FSL) but who ran into roadblocks at the local school board.

To get the ball rolling, Mr. Spicer offered to find some seed money—enough to organize a national conference of like-minded parents. The result was an event called “Parents’ Conference on French Language and Exchange Opportunities,” which took place in Ottawa in March of 1977. It was during this weekend-long conference that Canadian Parents for French was officially founded as a volunteer-based advocacy group, a collective of parents who wanted to ensure that children would have the opportunity to become bilingual in the Canadian school system.

The first conference determined a few things that are fundamental to the history of CPF. The group outlined its goals and elected its first National Board of Directors, led by inaugural president Pat Webster of Ontario. Her fellow directors were Judith Madley (British Columbia), David Saunders (Prairie Region), Elizabeth Annesley (Quebec), and Mary Lou Morrison (Atlantic Region).

This original small group of concerned parents who met in Ottawa over 30 years ago has evolved into a proactive national network with 10 Branch offices and some 150 Chapters in communities coast to coast to coast.

First-ever issue of our nationwide newsletter, CPF National News

Article on CPF’s first president Pat Webster (scroll down to page 7)

CPF Northwest Territories Milestones

1981, October

the Yukon and Northwest Territories were made full branches of CPF, with representation on the national Board of Directors


1982, January – National newsletter #16 includes this brief article:

Working for immersion

The Yellowknife chapter of CPF is working towards establishing a French immersion program in kindergarten.

Questionnaires and information have been distributed with the hope that there will be enough children for an immersion program in 1982. Meetings are also being held with the school board in an attempt to expand immersion into the junior high school.


1982, March – National newsletter #17 includes this brief article:

More opportunities, more interest

CPF members in Yellowknife are pleased that the grade 4 to 6 immersion program is being extended to grades 7 to 9.

Interest is now growing in immersion at the kindergarten level as well.


1982, September – National newsletter #19 includes this brief article:

Catching on

As the “middle” immersion program in Yellowknife (starting in grade 4) now has expanded upward to include grade seven, there has also been an interest shown by parents in starting immersion at the kindergarten level.

An initial refusal came from the public school board, but the separate board has now approved early immersion for its system.


1983, June – national newsletter #22 includes this article:

Moquin at mini

Jacques Moquin of the Edmonton regional office of the Alberta education ministry was the main speaker at the territorial mini-conference this year.

Great ideas

Though immersion classes continue to increase, there’s no French language summer program in the territories, so CPF members are approaching the Yellowknife city council to request that one of the city’s playgrounds be made a French playground this year.

Roll call

The Northwest Territories now boast French immersion in one kindergarten in a separate school; two grade four classes, one grade five and one grade six at a public school; and a grade seven class at a public junior high.


1984, June – national newsletter #26 includes this article:

Building better immersion

A “pre-immersion” course in Yellowknife for grade three students considering entering grade four immersion next year is now underway – one hour a day, for 37 students.

Cable connection

Obtaining French language Radio Canada on a local cable station is still under discussion with the company management. CPF and the territorial francophone association are jointly proposing the concept.


1987, March – Article on Camp de Neige in issue #37 of theCPF National Newsletter


1988, Summer – national newsletter #42 includes this article:

The Yellowknife Public School Board reported that 50 students had registered for the month long, end-of-the-year pre-immersion course. The special sessions are intended to give students entering the Grade 4 immersion program next year a running start.

It’s too early to be sure yet, but there are indications of interest in immersion from parents in Hay River. So far, Yellowknife is the only NWT community where immersion is available.


1991, October 17-19 – 15thnational conference held at the Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife


1997, late (or early 1998) — CPF Northwest Territories fails to elect a branch Board of Directors and becomes inactive



at the request of the national office, CPF Alberta had been sending its provincial newsletter to CPF members in the NWT. An article in the fall 1999 newsletter (copy forwarded) indicates that additional services would be extended by the Alberta branch (resources, access to the Alberta office via the 1-800 number, sponsorship of reps to provincial conferences and training sessions, etc.).

This coincided with a significant increase in the grants to CPF from Canadian Heritage, which allowed the branches to hire Executive Directors and somewhat expand their offices.  The CPF Alberta Board of Directors had agreed to take over the NWT grant

[1]in order to provide services to the territory; this was done on an interim basis until a more permanent solution could be found (e.g., rejuvenation of the NWT branch or amalgamation with Alberta as per the BC and the Yukon).

The Alberta branch was asked to provide this support because of the close education curriculum connections and the transportation connections between the province and the territory.

1999, fall – branch newsletter renamed the CPF Alberta & NWT News(see example from the fall 2001 newsletter)



2000, early– CPF Alberta E.D. Mike Beaudoin and Branch Development Officer Judy Gibson spend a few days in Yellowknife to establish connections with education leaders as well as CPF members and other parents (please see article forwarded from the spring 2000 Alberta newsletter)

2000, spring– local members were in the process of establishing two local chapters within Yellowknife under the auspices of CPF Alberta[2]


2002, spring– CPF Alberta E.D. Mike Beaudoin visits Iqaluit



2003, spring– branch newsletter renamed the CPF Alberta, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories News. The last edition of the “combined” newsletter was Fall 2004.

2003,summer–  the summer edition of the branch newsletter includes these items under the heading “A hearty welcome to four new chapters!”

Iqaluit – A chapter has now been established in Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut CPF members there are working to support and enhance the small and fragile core French program in the capital, Iqaluit.

Yellowknife – CPF Yellowknife Public Schools Chapter President Brenda Dragon reports, “We hope to provide opportunity as well as community for our French immersion families The bell has rung and we are organizing and actively recruiting members. Hopefully, together we can broaden the horizons and bring meaningful experiences to French language learning for our students.”

At some point, Mary Vâné was hired for the very part-time position of Chapter Development Officer for the NWT.



2004, early– Members in Yellowknife had expressed strong interest in becoming independent from CPF Alberta. Judy Gibson travelled to Yellowknife to present a workshop on the roles of the CPF national association, branches, and chapters and the current CPF governance model. (see picture from the spring 2004 newsletter forwarded)

2004, Fall– In reporting on the fall 2004 national conference, the CPF National Newsannounced that a NWT branch had been established. The winter CPF Alberta Newsincluded this brief announcement:

Congratulations to CPF’s new northern branch!

Sincere congratulations to CPF’s “north of 60” members on the establishment of a Northwest Territories Branch!

For several years Alberta extended a helping hand to CPF members in Yellowknife, Iqaluit and other northern communities east of the Yukon. We now wish them every success in promoting and supporting French second language learning in the NWT and Nunavut!


NWT Leaders

June 1980 to July 1981– John Kingsmill is listed in the national newsletter as a “NWT contact”

October 1981– Vivienne Moody was the NWT rep on the national Board of Directors (probably also NWT President) – the June 1982 national newsletter included this introduction:

Joined CPF in 1980 when the younger of her two sons enrolled in the territories’ first immersion program (sons are now in grade 6 immersion and grade 8 core French). Director since 1981. Holds a certificate in education and an M.A. in French literature from the University of Manitoba. Has taught French and English in the Winnipeg school system; and English, French and film at the University of Winnipeg; and French in the Northwest Territories.

October 1982– V.Moody continues to represent the NWT on the national Board – David McCann is listed in the national newsletter as Alternate Director (in most provinces, the Alternate Director served as the provincial President)

September 1983– national newsletter lists David McCann as the NWT member of the national Board of Directors and Vivienne Moody as the Alternate Director

March 1984– V.Moody is again listed as the national Director, D.McCann as Alternate Director

September 1984– D.McCann listed as the national Director, V. Moody as Alternate Director

September 1985– D. McCann still listed as the national Director; Peter Morris is given as the Alternate Director

November 1986– Peter Morris becomes the NWT member on the national Board of Directors; David McCann is listed as Alternate Director

Spring 1988– national newsletter lists David McCann as Director (Alternate Directors are not listed)

Fall 1988 – Scott McDonald is listed as Director, Ellen Bourassa as Alternate Director

October 1988— Scott McDonald is listed as Director, Susan Howarth as Alternate Director – the Winter 1988 newsletter included this introduction:

  1. Scott McDonald is an employee of Environment Canada in the Water Resources Branch. Prior to his election as NWT Director, he served as treasurer and secretary-treasurer and attended three CPF Annual General Meetings. He is also active in the NWT’s very popular Camp de Neige French immersion winter camp. His children are enrolled in French immersion programs.

October 1991– Mary Vâné is listed as Director, Dorothy Atkinson as Alternate – the Spring 1982 newsletter included this introduction:

Mary Vâné is a long time resident of Yellowknife, holds a BSc in Home Economics and has been teaching for more than 10 years. Her three children Moira, 14, Anthony, 12, and Jennifer, 9, are all in immersion programs.

November 1991– M.Vâné continues as Director; Jane Groenen is Alternate

November 1993– M.Vâné continues as Director; Ellen Bourassa is Alternate

October 1995– Krystine Hogan takes over as Director; Cynthia Cook  is Alternate

October 1996– Leslie Bromley becomes Director, Ed Gullberg Alternate

November 1997– under brand new CPF national bylaws, the national Board of Directors no longer comprises representatives of the provinces

Winter 1998‒ no NWT President listed in the CPF National News

November 2004– Randy Patrick is mentioned in the national newsletter as branch President; Mary Vâné is noted as Executive Director


[1]The funds for the two jurisdictions were managed separately. Copies of the annual NWT grant reports to Canadian Heritage are on file in the CPF Alberta office.  A summary of the 2000-01 grant was published in the fall 2001 branch newsletter (copy forwarded).

[2]The files on the Yellowknife chapters as well as contact lists are probably still in the CPF Alberta office. The first local chapter to be re-established under the auspices of CPF Alberta was probably Yellowknife Separate.

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