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French-speaking youth set to inspire with Francophone Games in Oak Bay

Community events planned for Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria during July 11 to 15 Games
Oak Bay High will be home to hundreds of young French-speaking as the Francophone Games land in the community this summer. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

When the Franco-Canadian Games North and West land in Oak Bay this summer, the community is invited as French-speaking youth engage in artists, culture and sports.

It’s a competition, but a different sort of competition, said Casey Edumunds, executive director of the Victoria Francophone Society.

The region was previously set to host the national edition of the Games in 2020, but that was repeatedly postponed and eventually cancelled.

In Canada, some provinces and territories have capacity to host events while others don’t, Edmunds said.

“Those teams have a little bit more challenges when preparing their teams and building a capacity at a local level.”

So organizers revisited the project, based off a previous model for a northwest edition, last held 2004 in Coquitlam.

READ ALSO: Victoria Francophone Society receiving $1M in federal funding to buy property for first time

“We see it as an opportunity to prepare our teams for the national event,” Edmunds said.

About 600 youth aged 14 to 18 will sleep dorm-style at Oak Bay High for the Games that run July 11 to 15, while the turf field out back transforms to a Games village with food trucks and booths.

That’s also where community will be invited out for events.

With support also coming from Victoria and Saanich, community events are also set to take place in Beacon Hill Park and at Uptown. Those activities are still being finalized.

They’re also close to sorting out the myriad inspirational leaders set to mentor youth in the varied events.

The concept goes well beyond bringing together French-speaking youth to play sports, but aims for a larger impact where youth return to sometimes small communities inspired, Edmunds said.

“They then become ambassadors in their schools. So there’s a huge training component to the Games,” he said.

The youth compete in a dozen events including multiple sports, culinary arts and new media.

READ ALSO: Speakers of French and non-official languages on the rise in Greater Victoria

Artists from the entire region, for example, are called on to mentor youth in the visual arts. The Francophone society also creates local partnerships, such as pairing a food business with the culinary arts.

The event is bilingual and French is not required for all positions, though Edmunds notes data from the 2021 census shows a high percentage of folks are comfortable with the official national language.

“Oak Bay is the highest percentage (in Greater Victoria) of people who have a knowledge of both official languages – it’s 15 per cent,” he said.

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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