This past weekend, around 600 students from across the province joined together at Ecole Secondaire Hanmer, to celebrate French language, history and culture, at the 26th annual Franco-Ontarian Games.
The Franco-Ontarian Games is the biggest annual francophone youth event in the province, each year inviting students from 106 Franco-Ontarian secondary schools to showcase their talents in one of eight disciplines. This is the third time Greater Sudbury has hosted the event, first in Sudbury, Chelmsford, and now in Hanmer.
"The goal is to visit different cities in Ontario so youth can find out about other communities," said federation de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne (FESFO) communication's manager, Camille Sigouin.
A resident of Hearst now living in the nation's capital, Sigouin understands the importance of the games for those in smaller communities, having participated in 2014 and 2015 before joining the FESFO's team of travelling facilitators.
For youth that may not have many opportunities to speak French, the Franco-Ontarian Games is an opportunity for them to meet other francophone students and learn more about the French culture, said Sigouin.
Students register for the event in April through the FESFO representative at their school, who is responsible for grouping students into a 17-person delegation.
Each delegation must have four students competing in the Annual General Meeting (AGM) quiz, one student in the media stream, and two students each for circus arts, visual arts, dance, improvisation, music and sports.
Sigouin said that schools are welcome to send more than one delegation to the tournament, so long as each group meets the discipline requirements.
This year's opening ceremony was held Friday, May 17 at the Centennial Arena in Hanmer, where students had the opportunity to meet their team and workshop facilitators. On Saturday night, after a full day of perfecting their routines, participants returned to Centennial Arena for a concert and DJ dance party.
Students had two days to complete their respective projects or routine, the majority of which practiced at Ecole Secondaire Hanmer, aside from sport which was hosted at Laurentian University.
Before the finals on Sunday, Ecole Secondaire Hanmer hosted a family fun day for children in the area who are not yet old enough to participate in the games. The event included a face painter, musician, family-friendly games, arts and crafts, as well as a variety of indigenous educational material.
"It was important to our school board to recognize the First Nations people of our community throughout the games," said Gabrielle Lemieux, a teacher at Ecole Secondaire Hanmer and local coordinator with FESFO.
Lemieux said that in addition to the family fun day's focus on Indigenous education, the opening ceremony featured a performance by First Nation's drummers, singers and dancers, which she said "is a step further than recognizing we are on native land."
To further demonstrate their school's commitment to First Nation's education, Indigenous cultural mediator with the French public school board Counseil Scolaire Public du Grand Nord de l'Ontario (CSPGNO) Stephane Paquette, commissioned ten hand-made ceinture flechee's for the special event.
Most recognizable as the red sash worn by Carnaval de Quebec's ambassador Bonhomme Carnaval, a ceinture flechee or 'belt with arrows,' is a low-worn sash most commonly associated with the Metis people. The sashes were designed by a friend of Paquette, who created a workforce in South America specifically for the creation of this cultural artifact.
The workforce welcomes women who have been victims of violence or are single parents, who are taught by Paquette's Mitchif friend to produce the alpaca wool product in exchange for fair trade. These ceinture flechee's, in particular, were made using the school colours and include the Ecole Secondaire Hanmer logo as well as that of FESFO.
This was an important project for Paquette, particularly as UNESCO declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Language.