AFRoS general director Maylis Destremau and president Stephanie Lemieux at the AFRoS office. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

AFRoS general director Maylis Destremau and president Stephanie Lemieux at the AFRoS office. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

New general director for francophone association

Exciting things are on the horizon for the Association Francophone des Rocheuses du Sud (AFRoS), or the Francophone Association of the Southern Rockies.

The association was formed in 2012 as a way to campaign for a francophone school in Fernie and for years was run entirely by volunteers.

“It started with just parents, volunteers,” explained AFRoS president Stephanie Lemieux. “There was a couple waves of volunteers running AFRoS. The first wave was the parents who wanted the school created and that was a lot of energy and I think it kind of drained them out a little bit so then there was a new wave of volunteers that I came about with. Kind of like a second wave that took it over because as volunteers sometimes you can get burnt out.”

Lemieux said that one of her goals since becoming president of the association was to find funding, allowing the association to create a paid position and to secure office space for their programs.

“I really focused on doing grant applications, trying to find money because I could see that our volunteers were getting burnt out and I felt that it was good that we have something going but your potential to run an association like this with just volunteers is quite small.”

Thanks to a grant from Heritage Canada, on Nov. 15, Lemieux’s goal was realized and Maylis Destremau started work as AFRoS first ever general director, a paid position.

Destremau came to Fernie in September 2017, after living with her family in Chile for 20 years.

“We decided that we wanted a different education for the kids, especially for them to learn English so we did a road trip in 2017 along the Powder Highway,” Destremau recounted how she and her family ended up in Fernie. “So we came here and we really liked it and we were like wow, let’s try to come.”

According to Destremau, once she had arrived and settled in Fernie, she reached out to Lemieux, who used to bring clients to Destremau’s ski lodge in Chile.

Lemieux told her friend about the association and Destremau began volunteering wherever she could.

“I was always willing to be more a part of the community and doing things in Fernie and giving some time helping the association,” she said. “And then, I saw this opportunity for a job, presented my resume, did the interview and then got selected.”

The association, which began as “French story time in somebody’s basement,” according to Lemieux, has come a long way since their inception.

Now, with a paid position and new office space as of Oct. 1, AFRoS is better able to serve the French community in not only Fernie, but the rest of the Southern Rockies as well. Although their focus is mainly in Fernie for now, they actually cover Elkford, Sparwood, Cranbrook, Kimberley, Invermere and Golden as well.

“Here in B.C. it’s more an anglophone region but we are part of Canada and Canada is bilingual,” said Destremau.

She also noted that the association tries to include everyone, not just francophones. “For us it’s really important… it’s not just for francophones or people from Quebec or from other French speaking countries. We are really willing to welcome everybody.”

Every Monday, AFRoS runs three different programs from their office. One program is geared towards young children, aged zero to four while the others are targeted towards teens and adults.

“We want to offer programs that are free or very cheap so that people can come, and not only people with lots of money,” Lemieux added.

On top of running weekly programs, all in French, of course, the association also hosts monthly cultural events.

“We call them the AFRoS events and it’s always around food or cultural things, just to remind people of their culture and where they come from,” said Lemieux.

Their last event was a games night at Infinitea and on Dec. 5, they’ll be hosting a tourtiere dinner, also at Infinitea.

The association also puts on Franco-fest, a french language festival in the springtime in Fernie.

“Every year we have been creating new things,” said Destremau. This year, AFRoS is looking to find more grants to expand their actions in the rest of their territory. They also have big dreams of things to come for the French community in the Elk Valley.

For now, they are working on building a website to increase their visibility and are actively looking for new and exciting ways to share the French language. If you’re interested to learn more, you can find them on Facebook by searching AFRoS Fernie or reach out via email at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

F.W. Green Memorial Home in Cranbrook. Photo courtesy Google Streetview.
Plan for future expansion of F.W. Green Home taking shape

Capital projects underway at East Kootenay Regional Hospital, per update from Interior Health

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old B.C. bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Most Read