The association, known as AFS, serves as a hub for French-speaking people of all origins. Its offices are located in Newton’s Ecole Gabrielle-Roy, the only francophone school in Surrey, where many of the association’s activities take place.
An exhibit has been created by AFS, in collaboration with the Société historique francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, along with Surrey Archives and Museum of Surrey staff.
“The final product is a mobile exhibit that relates the history of the association as well as the history of the presence of francophones in Surrey; a few French-Canadians actually came when Surrey was barely a dot on the map,” Sonya Marcinkowska, president of the AFS, told the Now-Leader.
“The exhibit introduces some of those families as well as the more recent francophone immigrants that have settled in Surrey.”
Of particular interest to the association is a Franco-Ontarian connection to the city’s Newton neighbourhood.
“In 1890, Elias John Newton acquired the first lot in the area that now bears his name,” according to a written part of the exhibit. “Many historical sources state that Newton and his wife Matilda were Franco-Ontarians whose original name was Villeneuve (literally ‘new-town’), and who translated it to Newton because the French version was too difficult for their neighbours to pronounce.
“However, though truly of French-Canadian roots in Ontario, the family had already changed its name before coming out west. Still, they were indeed involved in the larger Francophone community, as evidenced by its official representatives at Mr. Newton’s funeral in 1907.”
As well as being a farmer, Newton was also a noted saddle and harness maker in New Westminster.
“What we would really like to find is photos of the Newton family,” Marcinkowska told the Now-Leader. “Are there any descendants or relatives out there that can help us out?”
The exhibit will be launched during a private event this week, followed by a concert at Surrey City Hall’s Centre Stage theatre on Saturday evening featuring Montreal-based jazz musician Florence K, with openers Éléa Saunier and her band, Chic Soirée. For tickets, visit tickets.surrey.ca or call 604-501-5566.
“Florence K is a Juno Award nominee with pop and jazz influences famous for her mellow tunes and piano pieces. She sings in English, French and Portuguese,” Marcinkowska noted.
Looking ahead, the “Francophones of Surrey” mobile exhibit will be displayed at Newton Cultural Centre from Dec. 2 to 15.
“Visit the Association francophone de Surrey’s Facebook page for future locations or to request to have the display have a stay at your organization,” Marcinkowska added. “The exhibit may find a permanent home at the Museum of Surrey once the renovations are completed next year.”