Maine’s Franco-Americans are more than 25 percent of the state’s population. Recognition for the Franco-American contributions to Maine’s history, language and culture were held on March 19, in Augusta, at the Blaine House Governor’s Mansion. Moreover, the ceremonies will re-convene, on May 16th, at the Augusta State House.
International Francophonie Day (en francais Journée internationale de la Francophonie) is observed within the International Organization of La Francophonie‘s 77 member states every March to celebrate the French language and Francophone culture. There are over 369 million French speakers on Earth.
This year, the recognition was hosted in Maine, on Tuesday, March 19, with ceremonies hosted by Governor Janet Mills, at a late morning ceremony, at the Blaine House Governor’s Mansion.
“Bienvenue à la Blaine House!”, said Governor Mills.
“International Day of La Francophonie, is a day dedicated to celebrating the bond between francophone regions around the world and their shared values of democracy, human rights, cultural diversity and solidarity. It is a deep bond that spans the world from Canada to Cambodia and Quebec to Qatar. It is a bond that lies at the heart of Maine”, said Governor Mills in her “Bienvenue”, greetings to the more than 60 Blaine House guest and media.
Mitch Thomas, the exective director of the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston, welcomed the guests.
Distinguished guests included:
Governor Janet T. Mills
Consul General of France in Boston Armand Mentre
Consulate Senior Political and Economic Affairs Officer with Canada Marc A. Jacques
Quebec Delegate to New England Marie-Claude Francoeur
Quebec Delegate to New England Marie Josee Duquette
Honorary Consul of France in Maine Severin Beliveau, Esq. and Master of Ceremonies
Honorable President of the Maine Senate Senator Troy Jackson from Aroostook County
Honorable Representative Ryan M. Fecteau of Biddeford Assistant Majority Leader
Honorable Senator Susan Deschambault of York County
In remarks to the Blaine House audience, Rep. Fecteau said, ” I am a proud Franco-American. My father and his parents moved from Quebec to Maine in 1964 to work in the textile mill in Biddeford. I grew up making frequent trips to my Father’s homeland and stayed with my Memere’s brothers, who still live in the same house they were raised in. Between those trips and the strong French community that surrounds me in Biddeford, I have always felt a profound connection to my French heritage.”
Later in the day at 4 PM, another follow up program with the French Consul General Armand Mentre and Marie-Claude Francouer, was held at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College, with a reception at the Franco-American Collection (USM LAC FAC).
An educational program about 19th and 20th centuries discrimination movements against the French-Canadians and Franco-Americans was presented by James Myall.
A formal Fleur de Lys Agreement between the Quebec Delegation in New England and the University of Southern Maine Franco-American Collection was signed at the end of the afternoon program. Doris Bonneau, president of The Collection (FAC), Mrs. Francouer and University of Southern Maine Provost Jeannine Diddle Uzzi, signed the agreement to recognize the Quebec alliance with the FAC.
Recognizing International Francophonie Day in March was Maine’s way of welcoming the new Consul General Arnaud Mentré of France and the new Counsul General Jean of Haiti. They both arrived in Boston in January 2019, and their participation in the Blaine House ceremonies were scheduled with their first visits to Maine. “We were fortunate to be able to schedule this meeting on rather short notice with Governor Mills,” said Thomas.
On Thursday, May 16, another official Francophone program will be hosted by the Maine Legislature in the State House. Honorable Representative John L. Martin and the bicameral Franco caucus will organize the ceremonies for the Francophone Day at the State House.