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Gerry Marshall trying to get French-language university in Simcoe County

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

Deb Matthews (Postmedia Network files)

Deb Matthews (Postmedia Network files)

Simcoe County Warden Gerry Marshall is keeping up the pressure to have a new French-language university established in his hometown.

The Penetanguishene mayor met recently with Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, who is also minister of advanced education and skills development, and Francophone Affairs Minister Marie-France Lalonde in Toronto to outline the advantages of bringing the planned post-secondary institution to the Georgian Bay town rather than southwestern Ontario.

“It’s a big hill to climb,” Marshall said, adding he went to the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation outlining the advantages of setting up the university in a smaller francophone area rather than a larger centre.

The presentation included slides showing the town’s early exploration by Étienne Brûlé in 1613 on behalf of Samuel de Champlain, and the French settlers who first came to the area as early as 1634, with the largest influx in the 1820s.

“In 2015, the town celebrated 400 years of our proud Francophone history and culture (with) Rendezvous Champlain,” the presentation stated.

“The town is one of only three provincially legislated, French-language designated communities in southern Ontario.”

It also noted French services are offered throughout the town and outlying area, with 20% of the area’s population indicating in 2016 its knowledge or ability to speak French is “far above average,” compared to 8% in the Toronto area.

Marshall, who also noted the county has a large francophone population thanks in part to Canadian Forces Base Borden, said the next meeting will involve sitting down with the transition team involved in the new school project.

“Now it’s time for the local francophone community to take up the fight and champion it,” he said, “with the anglophone mayor fading into the background.”