One of the creators of the iconic Franco-Ontarian flag passed away in North Bay on Jan. 11. Michel Dupuis was 62 years old.
News of his death has spread across social media today, with the French Catholic school board tweeting that the Franco-Ontarian flag outside of l’école secondaire du Sacré-Cœur has been lowered to half-mast in Dupuis' honour.
When Dupuis was a student at Laurentian University in 1975, he and his professor, Gaétan Gervais, created the white and green Franco-Ontarian flag, which has since become a symbol for Francophones across the province.
Dupuis spoke to Sudbury.com about the flag in 2015 at a ceremony at the University of Sudbury celebrating its 40th anniversary.
He and Gervais created the flag when Ontario's Francophones were in the midst of a cultural revolution. Writers, artists, and musicians, like the seminal Franco-Ontarian band CANO, were telling their own stories in their own language, Dupuis said.
Even though there had been a Francophone presence in Ontario for more than 350 years at that time, Franco-Ontarian culture, as we know it today, was still in its nascent stages.
When the cultural revolution brought unique Franco-Ontarian voices to the forefront, Dupuis and Gervais decided they needed a symbol to rally behind and to represent them.
“The success of a symbol comes from its ability to convey a message,” Dupuis said.
The family is especially proud of one honour.
"We would like to emphasize that an elementary school in Ottawa was named after him, École élémentaire publique Michel-Dupuis," daughter Natalie told BayToday. "The school was inaugurated on April 11, 2017. The school honours him and the many contributions he made to the francophone community, especially as it pertains to his flag. We were so proud of him. It is a major accomplishment, and it will forever honour everything that he has done."
His obituary reads in part, " Michel was a warm, gentle, beloved and respected by all. He was a passionate person by life and especially by the challenges of life. During his lifetime, he was honored in 2012 with a plaque on the Walk of Fame in North Bay. in 2013, Recently, his name was added to the provincial plaque at the University of Sudbury, where he hoisted, for the first time at the age of 19 years, the Franco-Ontarian flag.
Visitations will be held at Hillside Funeral Home, Wednesday from 1 to 5:30 p.m. A celebration of life will follow at Le Centre culturel Les Compagnons des francs loisirs, at 6 p.m.