March 16, 2022

Printemps de la Francophonie: Meet OFFA and join the celebration

Printemps de la Francophonie is a month-long celebration of French language and francophone cultures organized by the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs.

Gino LeBlanc

“We’re full-on SFU,” says Gino LeBlanc, director of the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs (OFFA) at Simon Fraser University.

He's addressing the confusion that sometimes exists about the nature of OFFA’s position within the university.

OFFA, also known as the Bureau des affaires francophones et francophiles (BAFF), is certainly distinct—it receives federal funding through the BC Ministry of Education, it is located in the Cornerstone building on Burnaby Mountain, and its 10-member team works in French—but LeBlanc emphasizes that it belongs to the portfolio of Elizabeth Elle, Associate Vice-President, Learning & Teaching, and has close ties to other parts of the university.

A catalyst for post-secondary education in French

In fact, a core element of the mission OFFA has been pursuing since its creation in 2004 is to support SFU academic units in delivering programs and courses in French.

“We support, we coordinate, we promote […] programs in French—undergrad, grad, up to PhD,” says LeBlanc.

OFFA’s assistance can take a variety of forms, including funding.

“[We are a] conduit to go get the resources […] to support the profs [and] support the programs.”

Currently, OFFA is working with four Faculties as well as other partners like SFU Woodward’s and SFU International. One notable collaboration is the French Cohort Program, a multidisciplinary program in public and international affairs offered by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The program is taught in both English and French and includes a four- to eight-month exchange in Europe or Quebec.

As a complement to academic life, OFFA also maintains a dedicated lounge at Cornerstone for SFU students who speak French to meet, study or eat lunch. The lounge serves as a venue for activities in French, such as film screenings and conferences.

“We’re that francophone space, or that francophone pole, on campus,” says LeBlanc.

A champion for francophone cultures

Another core component of OFFA’s mission is the organization of cultural and scientific activities that foster francophone cultures and connect SFU with the broader francophone community in Vancouver and beyond.

OFFA’s annual Printemps de la Francophonie celebration in March does just that. This year’s festival, which includes lectures, panel discussions, workshops and cultural activities, runs from February 28 to March 31 and coincides with International Francophonie Day, a day to celebrate the French language and francophone cultures worldwide, on March 20. Events are happening at the Burnaby and Vancouver campuses, as well as online.

Printemps de la Francophonie is open to the entire SFU community—students, staff and faculty—as well as the general public. It’s one way in which OFFA supports SFU’s strategic vision of engaging communities.

Printemps de la Francophonie is not something that’s closed onto itself,” says LeBlanc. “There are 55,000 kids in French immersion in BC […]. We want to reach out to them and their parents too. They’re part of supporting the idea of multilingualism.”

And although the lectures, panel discussions and workshops will be in French, there will be English-friendly activities such as French-language movie screenings with English subtitles.

LeBlanc highlighted a number of his favourite films, including The Time Thief (l’Arracheuse de temps), which is based on a story by Quebec storyteller Fred Pellerin and will conclude the festival on March 31.

It’s all part of this year’s unifying theme: Lumière sur nos communautés—“Spotlight on our communities.”

Plan to participate and connect

Printemps de la Francophonie has something for everyone!