French for the Future was conceived by world-renowned author and philosopher John Ralston Saul and Toronto journalist Lisa Balfour Bowen. The original goal of the founders was to demonstrate a commitment to bilingualism and French language education through programs that provide information and encouragement to Canadian youth, while celebrating French language and culture.
With the assistance of former Toronto Mayor, Barbara Hall, the first French for the Future event was held in Toronto in 1997. Attended by 200 students from eight high schools in the Toronto area, the event consisted of workshops, plenary sessions, lively discussions with bilingual professionals, and underlined the positive career potential arising from continued French language education.
While initially envisioned as a single event, the founders of French for the Future quickly became aware of the need and demand for programs that focus more strongly on French language education. The success of the Toronto event spoke to the idea that the model of uniting French First Language, Immersion, and Core students in an atmosphere of dialogue, encouragement and exchange offered a unique and effective method to educate and inform.
As a result, the French for the Future conference model was adopted in cities across Canada. In 2011, these forums reached out to students in 17 cities. The organization later identified the need for more programs to be developed, in the goal of promoting Canada’s official bilingualism and the immediate and lifelong benefits of learning and communicating in French to students: the National Ambassador Youth Forum had its first event in 2004, the National Essay Contest saw the day in 2005, and Franconnexion Sessions were launched in 2010.
In 2012, French for the Future celebrated its fifteenth anniversary. Indeed, the need for French activities identified in 1997 is as strong as ever and French for the Future is well-placed to continue playing a leading role in promoting French to students across Canada.
- Mr. John Ralston Saul and Ms. Lisa Balfour Bowen founded French for the Future
- First Local Annual Forum held in Toronto: 200 students from 8 high schools in the Toronto area
- Second Local Annual Forum in Toronto: 215 students from 20 Toronto high schools
- Local Annual Forums held in Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, and Calgary: a total of 597 students from 60 high schools attend the forums
- Introduction of satellite broadcasting technology to link the forums
- Local Annual Forums added in Fredericton and Winnipeg: a total of 1,040 students from 90 high schools attend the forums
- National Office is established in Toronto
- 3 more Local Annual Forum cities are added: Whitehorse, Saskatoon, and St. John’s : more than 1,500 students from 141 schools attend the forums
- 500 additional students in more than 25 remotes sites are able to watch the live satellite broadcast of the local forums
- The Horizon Project is introduced: students come to Montreal for several days of cultural events and excursions
- The Franco-Nord Youth Project is introduced: students from across the north gather in Whitehorse
- 3 more Local Annual Forums are added: Charlottetown, Montreal, and Sudbury : a total of 2,700 students from 184 schools in 12 cities participate in the forums (including live satellite feed participants)
- 3 more Local Annual Forum sites are added: Edmonton, Kelowna, and Yellowknife
- Yellowknife hosts the second annual Franco-Nord Youth Forum
- The Horizon Project develops into the National Ambassador Youth Forum, held in Calgary and moderated by John Ralston Saul
- 3 more Local Annual Forum sites are added: Iqaluit, Ottawa, and Regina
- Ottawa hosts the National Ambassador Youth Forum, broadcast live from Rideau Hall
- Iqaluit hosts the Franco-Nord Youth Forum
- The First National Essay Contest is launched. Theme: The advantages of being bilingual
- Kelowna and London are added to the list of cities hosting Local Forums
- The National Ambassador Youth Forum is held in Fredericton
- The 2006-2007 National Essay Contest theme : The responsibilities of living in a country with two official languages
- Local Forums are held in Calgary, Fredericton, Halifax, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg
- The National Ambassador Youth Forum is held in Toronto, on the Glendon campus of York University
- The 2007-2008 National Essay Contest theme : Youth voter apathy
- Local Annual Forums are held in 14 cities
- The National Ambassador Youth Forum is held in Toronto, on the Glendon campus
- The 2008-2009 National Essay Contest theme : Ta Cause... Ta Chance!
- Local Annual Forums are held in 14 cities.
- The National Ambassador Youth Forum takes place in St-Boniface, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
- The 2009-2010 National Essay Contest question is: In your opinion, is competition useful?
- Local Annual Forums are held in 14 cities.
- The National Ambassador Youth Forum takes place in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- The 2010-2011 National Essay Contest question is: Imagine that you have the authority to declare 2011 the International Year of _____ (fill in the blank)! What theme would you choose? Why?
- The National Ambassador Youth Forum takes place in Quebec City, from February 25 to March 1st.
- A new program, the Franconnexion Sessions, is officially lauched in September 2011.
- The 2011-2012 National Essay Contest question is: How do you see the world in 15 years from now?
- French for the Future celebrated its 15th anniversary! Click here for pictures of the event.
- In April, the President's Award was introduced and presented to Ms. Nada Ristich. Click here for pictures.
- The National Ambassador Youth Forum was held in Edmonton, Alberta, from August 23 to 28th, 2012.
- Local Forums were organized in Calgary, Charlottetown, Edmonton, Fredericton, Halifax, Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa, St. John's, Summerside, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. And Local Forums will be held in London, Sudbury and Yellowknife in the fall.
- In August, the John Ralston Saul Award was introduced and presented to Olympic figure skater Patrick Chan.
- The 2012-2013 National Essay Contest question is: What can we do as citizens to preserve bilingualism in Canada?
John Ralston Saul and Lisa Balfour Bowen, 2001
Helen Coltrinari, John Ralston Saul and Lisa Balfour Bowen, 2009.
Photo credit: Annik Chalifour, L'Express de Toronto.