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Local schools celebrate Franco-Ontarian Day

On a day that honours Francophones living in Ontario, hundreds of local students gathered at Barrie city hall on Monday to mark the occasion.

"It's an example of our solidarity and everything that the French language and culture brings to us on a daily basis," said Tina-Anne Thibideau, director for La Cle.

Just over 400 students from four Francophone schools in Barrie attended the annual event honouring Franco Ontario Day, which seeks to enhance and celebrate the history of the French language in Canada.

"It's that much more important to provide Francophone service for families who are born here and come from abroad as well. We have plenty of Francophones across the country, so it's important to provide the services so that everyone can live and have fun in their native tongue," said Thibideau.

In Ontario, just over 600,000 people identify as francophones and more than a million speak French, representing one of the largest populations outside of Quebec, with educators saying they've noticed a dramatic increase in school admissions over the last few years.

"They are adding to that French culture, so different accents, different songs, different dances and different traditions, so it's a great way to grow as a community in Barrie," said Joel Dube, Director of Ecole Elémentaire Catholique Frère-André.

That sense of community was also on display in Penetanguishene on Monday, where hundreds of Francophones call the region home.

Back in Barrie, the celebrations continued with the city's flag-raising and a performance by artist LeFLOFRANCO.

"I went to high school here. I went to elementary school here, so I think for them it's interesting to say hey, someone who's from where we're from gets to be a professional artist and gets to be a part of these great moments," said the Francophone artist.

Organizers say celebrations are being held in several different towns and cities throughout the province on Monday, continuing to embrace and support Francophones throughout Ontario.   

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