Canada/Relance de l'Association française des municipalités de l'Ontario à Kapuskasing
The annual convention of the Association française des municipalités de l'Ontario (AFMO) runs until September 17 in Kapuskasing. The first face-to-face event since the pandemic, it comes at a time when the Association is facing the challenge of recruiting new members.
AFMO members meet to discuss parity, diversity and inclusion in municipal politics.
We absolutely want people to feel comfortable on municipal councils. We also want them to feel included, because we don't always feel included, even if we're elected officials," says outgoing AFMO president Nicole Fortier Levesque.
Participants will also discuss immigration, according to Ms. Fortier Levesque.
We're experiencing a labour shortage in Ontario and elsewhere. We want to make sure that people who come to us from other countries are welcomed here.
A quote from Nicole Fortier Levesque, President of the Association française des municipalités de l'Ontario.
The mayor of Timmins, Michelle Boileau, adds that this congress will be an opportunity to try to find strategies that will enable us to succeed in not only attracting, but also retaining French-speaking people of working age.
AFMO currently has 29 members. Recruiting a larger number is a tall order.
The challenge we face today is to go out and find members, to make people believe that AFMO is here, well anchored and here to stay," says Hearst Mayor Roger Sigouin.
Nicole Fortier Levesque points out, however, that there has been an improvement in this regard, as the Association had only 24 members in 2022.
We want to work very hard on recruitment to bring back the City of Toronto, which was already a member," she promises.
The mayor of the City of Timmins believes it will be possible to find new members, as the membership criteria will change.
For her, the fact that a municipality is designated bilingual does not mean that members must necessarily be French-speaking.
It reassures me that the day I'm no longer mayor, and my successor isn't a francophone, we'll still have this kind of support and participation in an association," she says.
Hope for the future
Roger Sigouin, mayor of Hearst and former president of AFMO, believes the association has a bright future despite limited financial resources, because it will have new blood.
Young people are ready to [take the reins], and we encourage that. If they need a helping hand, we're there to help them," Roger Sigouin points out.
Michelle Boileau also insists that the priority will be to engage youth, to engage a new segment of the Francophone population in politics.
We've had some big challenges in the past, but today, AFMO is in good shape, and we're continuing to work," confides Roger Sigouin.
We've got accountants working with us, helping to steer us in the right direction, and the challenges we've had are a thing of the past," he adds.
A new president is to be elected on Sunday to succeed Nicole Fortier Levesque.