St. Jean Baptiste Day kicks off with a Franco-Ontarian flag raising in Greater Sudbury

June 24 is St. Jean Baptiste Day, a day when francophone culture and history is celebrated.

Every year on June 24, the Franco-Ontarian flag is raised at a new location in Greater Sudbury. This year the chosen spot was at a local fire hall.

It's an initiative that began in 2003.

“Back when city council refused to float the Franco-Ontarian flag in front of city hall,” said Joanne Gervais, executive director of the Association canadienne-francaise de l’Ontario.

“We took it upon ourselves to increase visibility and increase knowledge on the Franco-Ontarian flag and what it represented.”

Gervais said the flag raising is a celebration for many and she wants people to know it will stay that way.

“If I go back to 2003, a lot of the concerns were or what people were telling us was 'if you put up the Franco-Ontarian flag, we have to put up the Italian flag and we have to put up the British flag,' which is a false equivalency obviously because the Franco-Ontarian flag in Ontario,” said Gervais.

“It’s a celebration of being from here. So extra Franco-Ontarian flags doesn’t hurt anybody. We’re not going anywhere and we are proud.”

The Franco-Ontarian flag was designed in Sudbury by a professor and student at Laurentian University. It was first flown in 1975.

Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger said it’s vital to respect the flag and what it represents.

“It’s very important that we continue raising these flags across Sudbury because it’s a significant part of our heritage," Bigger said.

"I’m very proud as the mayor to be able to participate and support these activities over many years.”

As part of the celebrations, a concert featuring francophone musicians Robert Paquette and Zachary Richard will be held at Collège Boréal Saturday at 8 p.m.