Fears that the weather would stage an ugly revolt proved entirely unfounded at the large garden party hosted Thursday by the Embassy of France in Ottawa to celebrate Bastille Day, the biggest national holiday in France.
Hundreds of invited guests ate, drank and mingled on the spacious lawn outside the embassy located along Sussex Drive in what turned out to be hot weather with a slight breeze. It was the first of two receptions held there that day.
The holiday marks the storming of the Bastille prison by angry Paris mobs in 1789, signalling the start of the French Revolution.
Guests were welcomed by the embassy’s chargé d’affaires, Frank Marchetti, who assumed the role this past March after Kareen Rispal returned to Paris to become inspector general of Foreign Affairs. As France's first female ambassador to Canada, Rispal became a beloved member of the Ottawa community during her nearly five-year posting in Ottawa.
Representing the Canadian government at the reception was Marta Morgan, deputy minister of Global Affairs.
The celebration was held in partnership with multinational corporations like cosmetics giant L’Oreal Canada, tire manufacturer Michelin, energy company TotalEnergies, pharmaceutical group Servier, cybersecurity player Thales, transport company Keolis Canada, and ophthalmic optics leader Essilor.
Marchetti touched on French President Emmanuel Macron’s “strong desire” to come to Canada in the coming months. “We are working to make this happen,” said Marchetti, who delivered his remarks in both French and English. “Such a visit will be a great opportunity to reinforce even more our relationship that our leaders have described as excellent.”
The trip will strengthen France and Canada’s partnerships in areas including defence and security, economic recovery, green energy and environmental transitions, science and innovation, and francophone culture, he added.
On the subject of the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war, Marchetti commended Canada on behalf of the French government for its “remarkable and constant commitment to Ukraine, and to working shoulder to shoulder with its European allies, as Canada did during both world wars.”
Marchetti also acknowledged the role of his guests, “who have, in one way or another, contributed to strengthening cooperation between France and Canada. Each day, you help sustain the friendship between our two countries.”
There event was draped with red, white and blue, from the tricolour bunting and streamers and the creative business attire, to the colour-coordinated platters of macarons, a popular French pastry. There were food and drink stations set up, along with several large party tents that provided shade.
The reception marked the embassy’s first large event since the start of the pandemic. It had stuck to very low-key, scaled-back Bastille Day receptions in 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus concerns.
The mix of guests included David Perry, president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; Christina Tessier, president and CEO of Ingenium, which oversees the three national museums of science and innovation in Ottawa; Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King; Catherine Bélanger, who's late husband, Mauril Bélanger was a political champion of the francophone community; and retired lieutenant-general and former MP Andrew Leslie, who now sits on several corporate boards and is working with Bluesky Strategy Group as a senior associate.
Not to be missed was Gowling WLG lawyer Jacques Shore nor his new Order of Canada pin. He received his medal late last month for his distinguished work as a lawyer and negotiator, as well as his involvement in the community. He is currently board chair of the Library and Archives Canada Foundation. Grant McDonald, managing partner at KPMG in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, also returned to Ottawa for a visit. McDonald was heading off to the UK to join other leaders in the aerospace and defence industries at the Farnborough International Airshow.
Nicole Thibault, national executive director of Canadian Parents for French, told OBJ.social how her organization works with the French embassy to recruit educators from France in order to help address the ongoing shortage of French-language teachers in Canada.
Statistics Canada reports nearly 480,000 students were enrolled in French immersion at the public elementary and secondary level across the country in 2018/19. “We could fill another 100,000 spots easily if we had the teachers,” she said.
Demands are being driven by immigrants who want their children to learn both official languages, said Thibault, while adding that interest in learning the French language is “especially booming” in Alberta and British Columbia.
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