French-speaking Ontarians protest against government's language service cuts
Last Updated: 2018-12-03 14:27 | Xinhua
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Thousands of French speakers took to street to protest against the Conservative Ontario government's cutbacks to French services Saturday afternoon in Ottawa, Toronto and other areas across Canadian province of Ontario.

The protests were organized by the Francophone Assembly of Ontario, which represents 740,000 French-speaking Ontarians.

The assembly said more than 13,5000 people took to the street for the protest in the province.

The protests come three days after a motion at the Ontario provincial parliament to restore the French Language Services Commissioner and a promised French Language University in Ontario was voted down Wednesday.

The French language services commissioner's job is to ensure that the government abides by the French Language Services Act.

In its budget statement last month, Ontario provincial government announced its decision to remove the position of the French language services commissioner and scrap plans to build province's first ever French-language university as part of its plan to balance the provincial budget for the rest of the year.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford cited the province's deficit of 15-billion Canadian dollars (about 11 billion U.S. dollars) as the reason for cutting funds to the university, as well last month's decision to pull funds for three university expansions.

Establishment of a French-Language university was first promised by the Liberal provincial government in 2017 and scheduled to open in 2020, catering to the province's fast-growing Francophone population, the largest in Canada outside of Quebec province in the country.

The decision caused a very strong backlash from French-speakers, the federal government and French speaking Quebec province in the country. French is the mother tongue of 622,415 French-speakers in Ontario, according to Statistics Canada.

Supporters demonstrated the fact that while total enrollment in Ontario's English-language school boards has been on a long, slow decline over the past 20 years, enrollment in the French-language boards has been rising.

The provincial controversy has already become national political implications, prompted federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to engage in damage control this week, initiating a meeting in Ottawa on francophone rights outside Quebec, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the other party leaders.

Ford has revised his government plans by saying the position of the French language services commissioner would fall under the ombudsman's office. However, he said he will not take back his decision on the French-language university.

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