Written by Ziyan, Advisor, French Language Services - HRM Office of Diversity & Inclusion
March is Francophonie Month, celebrating the French Language and diverse Francophonie cultures through cultural events held around the world. International Francophonie Day is observed annually on March 20.
This year, the month-long celebration in Halifax starts with a virtual opening ceremony in tribute to the local community builder George Cottreau.
Throughout March, local organizations are hosting more than 20 activities showcasing the rich and diverse Francophonie in Halifax.
This year’s Francophonie Month is also an opportunity for the community to remember Mr. George Cottreau, a great bâtisseur for the local French-speaking community who passed away in May 2020.
Biography of George Cottreau
Originally from Wedgeport, an Acadian village in southwestern Nova Scotia, George Cottreau studied at the village school and then finished his Grade 12 at the École consolidée de Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau in 1960. That same year, he moved to Montréal where he worked for three years before enrolling at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. He completed his studies in Physics and Mathematics in 1967.
He spent 12 years in the aeronautics and electrical network automation fields in Montréal. This work led to several work placements in Canada, Europe and two years in New Zealand. George returned to his home province in 1979 to begin his 19-year career with Nova Scotia Power. Over the years, George held several positions, including Director General of the Metro Halifax Division, with 155,000 clients and 250 employees. He was a member of various professional associations, such as the Canadian Electricity Association, the Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association, and the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, where he served as Chair of the 2nd Halifax Economic Summit in 1994, a process that involved around 500 businesspeople from the metropolitan area.
Upon returning to his home province, he tirelessly fought for public education in French as a first language in the greater Halifax area. Couttreau was Chair of the Comité du centre scolaire-communautaire for 10 years. In 1991, this committee opened the Carrefour du Grand-Havre, which housed the École du Carrefour—a French language school (Kindergarten through Grade 12)—and the community centre for Francophones in the region.
In addition to this achievement, in June 1991, his efforts resulted in the creation of the first Francophone school board in Nova Scotia, the Conseil scolaire francophone du Halifax métropolitain, to manage the École du Carrefour. The name became Conseil d’école du Grand-Havre in October 1991, and George was the first Chair. It was a great personal achievement for him when his daughter Julie was in the first class of graduates at the École du Carrefour. Since 1992, the Carrefour amphitheatre has been known as the Salle George Cottreau in recognition of his volunteer work in building the centre and managing French as a first language education in the region.
Over the years, he volunteered for several organizations and committees involved in the development and vitality of life in French for Acadians and Francophones in Nova Scotia.
Chambre de commerce francophone de Halifax
- Vice-President, 2005–2007
Nova Scotia Advisory Board on Colleges and Universities
- Board member, 2001–2004
Collège de l’Acadie, 1997–2000
- Member of the Board of Governors and Vice-President, 1998–2000
Joint Committee, Canadian Heritage/Round Table
- Co-Chair, 1995–1999
- Chair, 1995–1999
- Managed a strategic planning exercise for Renouvellement 99, which aimed to establish a strategic and comprehensive direction for the Acadian and Francophone community of Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia School Boards Association, 1991–1992
- Member of the Board of Governors
Conseil d’École du Grand-Havre
- Chair of the first Francophone school board in NS, 1991–1992
Comité du centre scolaire-communautaire
- President, 1983–1991. Received provincial and federal funding to build a Francophone school-community centre in Dartmouth in 1991.
- Facilitated strategic planning for Francophonie in the Halifax metropolitan area.
Fédération des parents acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse
- Founding member and treasurer, 1984.
George was involved with the Regroupement des aînées et aînés de la Nouvelle-Écosse (RANÉ) in 2013 as a facilitator in the Prevention of abuse and fraud against seniors project. He served as a representative for the Halifax region on the RANÉ Board of Directors in 2014-2015 and was elected Chair in November 2015.
In 2000, he founded his company, Cottreau Consultants Ltd., to provide business management services to the member organizations of the Acadian and Francophone community of Nova Scotia.
In 1989, George received the Père-Léger-Comeau Certificate from the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse, and in 1990, the Certificate of Civic Merit from Canadian Heritage in recognition of his work for the creation of the Carrefour du Grand-Havre. In 2016, he received the rank of Knight of the Order of La Pléiade.
As you celebrate Francophonie Month this year, and beyond, we invite you to reflect on, honour, and learn from the life of George Couttreau.