Our history

Centre culturel francophone de l'Okanagan

In the second half of the 19th century, about forty French-speaking families participated in the colonization of the Okanagan Valley. Names of several key figures are reflected in the names of certain cities and streets. For instance, Pandosy Street in Kelowna commemorates the contribution of Father Pandosy who, with the help of other Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, established the Okanagan Mission where the education of the aboriginal people was done in French. The inspiration for the name of Kelowna, which means “Grizzly Bear” in a native language, came from Auguste Gillards’s physical appearance as a strong, bearded and hairy French speaker who had killed one of these great mammals and first settled here in 1862, where there is now the city center of Kelowna.

Throughout the 20th century, French speakers continued to arrive in the region. Having a language and religion in common, some women came together and met informally in their lounges to sing, knit, exchange advice, etc. As there were several women named Cécile in the group, they decided to be called the Saint-Cécile Club. Out of necessity, that club became the rallying point for French speakers around Kelowna and in 1974; the group became the French-speaking Circle of Kelowna, the predecessor of today’s Centre Culturel Francophone de l’Okanagan.

On August 29th, 1978, the Center was endowed with a constitution and in 1984; the French-speaking Cultural center of the Okanagan bought a former church situated in downtown Kelowna, on Bernard Avenue. The church was renovated, creating a gathering place for all French speakers in the region. The building, with its bell tower, has always been used as an office and a meeting room where numerous activities are organized on behalf of the French speakers and the Francophiles.

Should you require more information about the history of the French speakers in the region, please feel free to contact the Centre Culturel Francophone de l’Okanagan.

The Francophonie

Across British Columbia, we find people who like expressing themselves in French. Together, they represent the fourth largest French-speaking community in Canada; about 300 000 people province wide and continually growing. It has created a robust social and economic infrastructure which offers services and activities in French, answering the particular needs of this French-speaking population of Canada.

Did you know in British Columbia :

  • – Francophones arrived with Alexander Mackenzie in 1793?
  • – The first French-speaking church was built in Maillardville in 1909?
  • – 42 000 francophones live in Vancouver and Victoria?
  • – There are 40 French-speaking schools and 4 200 students who attend them? The French-speaking school Council is the fastest growing school district in British Colombia.
  • – There are 40 000 kids registered in French immersion programs?
  • –Simon Fraser University now has a French-speaking and Francophiles business office? And that the young adults can pursue their post-secondary education in French?
  • – Collective studies are offered in French in classroom or on-line?
  • – The French-speaking community has theater groups, festivals, dancers, musicians, artists, craftsmen, as well as a historic association and thousands of people participate in these activities?
  • – The French-speaking business people can receive, in their language, training in entrepreneurship in all key sectors of the economy of the province, thanks to the Society of economic development?
  • – The French language is spoken across the world?