May 30, 2013 by LeVoyageur
Our grassroots campaign for a French Canadian Heritage Day in Michigan is going from strength to strength. As of today we are within very close range of meeting our goal of 500 signatures with another two and a half weeks to go before the official end date.
To date, we have been joined in support by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, State Representative Bill LaVoy, as well as by eminent scholars whose work has focused on the French contributions to North America in general and on Michigan’s own history, archaeology, and local heritage.
Committee members have spent a great deal of time reaching out to individuals and community organizations across Michigan. This week we have been focusing on teacher organizations, conservation clubs, and churches. We continue to receive very positive feedback. Thank you to all who have supported us!
Some people have voiced some concerns however. While I set out the rationale for a French Canadian Heritage Day in my blog post here and in the petition itself, I would like to try to clear up three misconceptions about what this day is meant to do and what effect it would have.
One concern is that we already have too many holidays! French Canadian Heritage Day would be a day set aside via proclamation from the Governor of Michigan to raise awareness of this historic community. It would not mean a day off nor would it raise the specter of closed post offices, schools or banks. It would not be a holiday. It is a heritage day meant to celebrate a unique element of our state’s history and culture.
A second concern is that it takes time away from other, more pressing, state business. The governor should be concerned with jobs and the economy not declaring heritage days. Part of the role of the governor is setting a public tone of civility and leading Michigan as a community. To that end, every year many proclamations like this are issued. It is a vital part of his job and, I imagine, an enjoyable one. This heritage day has already elicited many comments about tourism and community events, which might very well turn into a net benefit for local businesses.
Finally, there is the concern that through this proclamation, we are diminishing the other groups who also played important roles in Michigan’s history. The recognition of French Canadian contributions to Michigan and Great Lakes culture is not about the aggrandizement of one community. It is about engagement and education – French Canadians engaging with their own culture as we reach 400 years of presence in the Great Lakes, and all Michiganders engaging with our state’s multifaceted history in a way that highlights this one community.
It is gratifying to know that people find this a worthy cause. We are happy to address concerns about our goal. I hope that this helps clarify any lingering questions some may have. Please join with us in celebrating Michigan’s French Canadian culture and in so doing, our entire state!