On today’s date in 1970, Canada signed a treaty with 21 other countries to found l’Agence de coopération culturelle et technique (ACCT, or “Agency for Cultural and Technical Co-operation” in English) at the Niamey Convention in Niger.
A precursor to today’s 84-member Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (IOF)—commonly known as La Francophonie—the group consists of French-speaking nations that promote French language and culture.
Today’s date is now celebrated worldwide as International Francophonie Day. In 2010, March 20 was declared UN French Language Day and celebrated in conjunction with International Francophonie Day. That year marked the 40th anniversary of the IOF’s founding.
During the 1987 Francophonie Conference in Quebec City, it was decided the group would celebrate every four years with a multi-event arts and sports competition known as the Jeux de la Francophonie (or “Francophonie Games” in English).
CANADIAN FRANCOPHONIE STAMPS
In 1995, Canada Post issued a 45-cent stamp (Scott #1589) to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the ACCT.
“La Francophonie has two meanings,” reads a press release issued by Canada Post in 1995. “The first is the association of peoples who speak or use the French language. Historically, this group of nations is not as close-knit as the Commonwealth, not having all been colonies of France, as are Commonwealth nations with Great Britain. In fact some are members of both organizations, like Canada and the small island nations of Mauritius and Vanuatu.”
“La Francophonie also refers to a collective of groups and associations, both private and governmental, engaged in activities of mutual interest and seeking to maintain a co-operative dialogue within which the French language is instrumental.”
The ACCT’s main goal was to strengthen solidarity between nations through the use of the French language. Among its 21 original ministerial delegates, the ACCT included Canadian representation from Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba, and the agency’s first secretary-general was Quebec journalist Jean-Marc Léger.
In 2001, Canada Post featured the Fourth Francophonie Games on a se-tenant pair of 47-cent multi-coloured stamps (SC #1894, 1895) printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company on Tullis Russell Coatings coated paper. Designed by Clermont Malenfant, of Montreal, the stamp uses two illustrations based on actual photographs to reflect the Games’ components: sports and culture. The male high-jumper and the female dancer represent the individual efforts needed to achieve excellence while also stressing the differences in skills and talent needed to do so.
In 2008, Canada Post featured the Thirteenth Francophonie Games on a 52-cent commemorative stamp (SC #2290) depicting Quebec City alongside the names of the countries participating in the summit.