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$1 million in funding announced for Université Sainte-Anne renovations to aging infrastructure


Major renovation work already underway at province’s only Francophone university

CHURCH POINT, N.S. —

The building, dating back to 1899 when it was rebuilt after a fire, is a centerpiece of the Université Sainte Anne campus. It has seen better days in its past, but it will also see better days ahead in its future.

On July 10 it was announced that the Gustave-Blanche Building ­– named after one of the founders of the province’s only Francophone university – is receiving an injection of $1 million to modernize and renovate it.

The federal and provincial governments are each contributing $500,000 for the work at the Church Point, Digby County campus.

The Gustave-Blanche Building that stands on the Université Sainte-Anne campus in Church Point, Digby County, was rebuilt in 1899 following a fire. It is named after one of the university’s founders. Renovations are coming to the exterior and interior of the building to help modernize it and increase its usage for the university and community.  TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The Gustave-Blanche Building that stands on the Université Sainte-Anne campus in Church Point, Digby County, was rebuilt in 1899 following a fire. It is named after one of the university’s founders. Renovations are coming to the exterior and interior of the building to help modernize it and increase its usage for the university and community. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Funding totalling $1 million for renovations at Université Sainte-Anne were announced on July 10. Federal minister of Tourism and Official Languages and La Francophonie Mélanie Joly spoke about the importance of the French language and culture. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Funding totalling $1 million for renovations at Université Sainte-Anne were announced on July 10. Federal minister of Tourism and Official Languages and La Francophonie Mélanie Joly spoke about the importance of the French language and culture. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

You didn’t need to speak French to understand the excitement of Mélanie Joly, the federal minister of Tourism and Official Languages and La Francophonie, as she made the funding announcement. Her smile spoke volumes. Joly, addressing the gathering in French, hopes the project will help and encourage more people to speak and maintain the French language.

This project in southwestern Nova Scotia’s Acadian French shore fits in well with the goal of supporting minority language communities and promoting bilingualism across the country, the federal government says.

“Université Sainte Anne, being the only post-secondary institution for Francophones in Nova Scotia, it is a pillar of the community, and that’s why we need to reinforce it and why we need to invest in it,” said Joly.

“It is a way for Francophones to have access to good jobs and to make sure that their kids will continue to speak French,” she said about the university’s impact. “For almost 130 years, Université Sainte-Anne has played a key role in promoting Acadian identity in Nova Scotia and today it also welcomes Francophones from across Canada and around the world.”

Funding totalling $1 million for renovations at Université Sainte-Anne were announced on July 10. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Funding totalling $1 million for renovations at Université Sainte-Anne were announced on July 10. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

The project now underway involves renovating the roof, windows and exterior cladding of the Gustave-Blanche Building, as well as upgrading certain interior spaces. The work will address current and future needs of students and the community through new multipurpose rooms and offices.

The fourth floor of the building – which has housed unusable space – will be upgraded and connected to the internet to allow seminars and workshops to be held, broadcasted and recorded. The new space will also accommodate classes taught by special guest speakers. The end result will contribute to the province’s digital footprint when it comes to French language and culture in Canada.

Joly noted across the country they see a lot of parents who want their children to have access to French education and immersion. The funding she announced is made available to community education infrastructure as part of the Action Plan for Official Languages 2018-2023.

Funding totalling $1 million for renovations at Université Sainte-Anne were announced on July 10. Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson, also the province's environment minister, announces the $500,000 from the province. The other half is coming from the federal government. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Funding totalling $1 million for renovations at Université Sainte-Anne were announced on July 10. Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson, also the province's environment minister, announces the $500,000 from the province. The other half is coming from the federal government. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson, who is also Nova Scotia’s environment minister, announced the $500,000 for the project on the province’s behalf. He too spoke of the importance of the French language and culture.

“One of my biggest regrets . . . is that I didn’t have more time to spend here learning French,” Wilson said about the university where he did do some French immersion. “This is an amazing institution.”

As an English-speaking MLA responsible for representing this large Acadian community, Wilson said he is proud and appreciative of the role the university plays in ensuring the region’s cultural identity and language carries on.

Allister Surette, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Université Sainte-Anne, said the university is important to the students and the community in terms of its educational, cultural, economic and research contributions.

The work now underway is a continuation of work that has taken place in recent years to enhance the university. The library, here since the 1970s, has seen about $1 million in renovations and improvements. The university turned to the private sector with Comeau’s Seafoods, and also ACOA, to revamp the sports complex.

“We’ve done really well. We’ve managed either through capital campaigns or federal government support to carry out improvements. The province is on the operations-side of our university. Because we’re in a minority situation, to have (the federal) Official Languages support us is great,” he said.

With French immersion students looking on, Allister Surette, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Université Sainte-Anne, speaks during a July 10 federal/provincial funding announcement that will help to modernize facilities at the province’s only Francophone university. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
With French immersion students looking on, Allister Surette, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Université Sainte-Anne, speaks during a July 10 federal/provincial funding announcement that will help to modernize facilities at the province’s only Francophone university. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Surette said the university will always be about the French language and culture, but it is also becoming known for other things too, such as its research.

“We’re going to do a little bit more lobster research than we have. We’re doing winery research. In the private sector we’re working with oysters, we’re working with fishermen, fish plants. All of this is giving us different notoriety, different branding,” he said.

And as part of all of the above, community engagement continues to be very important.

“The community should benefit from these buildings,” Surette said, feeling the university is achieving this goal while knowing there is even more that can be done.

QUOTABLE:

"Over the centuries, Acadian communities have kept alive the vitality of their language and warm culture . . . We are proud to support this leading institution, which plays a vital role in raising the profile of (Acadian culture) and the Canadian Francophonie."

– Federal minister of Tourism and Official Languages and La Francophonie Mélanie Joly

"We are delighted to support efforts to broaden and strengthen the Francophonie and Acadian communities in Nova Scotia. Our joint investment with the federal government will revitalize the Gustave-Blanche Building and help strengthen the teaching of French as a mother tongue. Better yet, it will provide the entire community with a place they can use."

– Gordon Wilson, Nova Scotia Environment Minister and MLA for Clare-Digby

"This funding will allow us to restore and highlight the heritage value of the Gustave-Blanche Building, an iconic building of our university. It will meet our needs for many years to come and help us maintain our presence in the community – a key priority of Université Sainte-Anne's strategic plan."

– Allister Surette, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Université Sainte-Anne

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