Western Canada’s oldest French-language newspaper has announced plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.
St. Boniface-based La Liberté — founded in 1913 by the Oblate Fathers — will hold six major events, in partnership with numerous sponsors, next year to celebrate its centennial.
Lysiane Romain, the paper’s acting-editor-in-chief, said these include a film produced by Productions Rivard for Radio-Canada detailing its evolution and the role it has played in shaping Franco-Manitoban identity.
There will also be a gala event on June 25, 2013 for 600 guests, when homegrown hockey hero Jonathan Toews will be the honorary president; the Peel Project, which involves the digitalization of all editions of La Liberté since its inception and a block party planned for June 23, 2013 and led by Rivers West Red River Corridor.
Rounding out the events will be a national, bilingual conference on the state of journalism and its future, to be held at Université de Saint-Boniface and an exhibition retracing the history of La Liberté and the francophone community, which will run from June 2013 to May 2014, as well as a travelling version of the exhibition, which will visit 10 bilingual communities.
The announcement comes after reports earlier this year of federal funding cuts, which have impacted the paper’s subsidies in light of the Canadian Periodical Fund replacing the Canada Magazine Fund and the Publications Assistance program.
Long-time St. Boniface resident and La Liberté supporter William Caithness was among a group of community members who collected 3,000 signatures in less than two weeks to petition the government and oppose the cuts.
"The paper has spent one hundred years promoting and advocating francophone rights — and done an excellent job dealing with issues in the francophone community," Caithness said. "I talk to people about reading it and about how it also promotes culture, theatre and music. It’s super vital for the community."
Caithness said if the paper was forced to cease operation, it would be an immeasurable loss to the community.
"It would be huge loss, a real step backwards, as it’s irreplaceable. It’s the premier vehicle that promotes the community and makes people aware of what’s going on."
Local historian Jacqueline Blay believes La Liberté can live on because of factors relating to the past, present and future.
"The main feature and the reason it’s still alive is that it was created to be bipartisan. It’s not the voice of one political party, but the voice of the community," said Blay, a retired provincial government employee who now teaches history at Université de Saint-Boniface.
The St. James resident added the paper utilizes all its media resources effectively and has "taken the curve of technology very well and stayed relevant to the community."
"It runs the gamut and reaches kids in the schools or older adults in seniors’ centres," she said.
For more information, visit la-liberte.mb.ca.