First organized in 1975 by Catherine Liddy, Assistant Co-ordinator of Modern Languages for the City of Toronto Board of Education, and Prof. Frank Collins, Victoria College, University of Toronto, the first contest was open to senior students of French in Metropolitan Toronto. Sixty prizes, many made available through the efforts of Prof. Laure Rièse, were awarded to the students who performed well in both the written and oral components of the test which required excellence in the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing.
The success of the first contest encouraged the organizers to incorporate a non-profit company to enhance their charitable fundraising capability. The OMLTA Toronto French Contest Inc. was founded in August 1975. As fundraising continued, a reserve fund was created which guaranteed the continuation of the contest. In addition, special funds have been established to honour the late Roy Jackman and Ms. Claire Piché to recognize their contributions to the study of French as a second language in Toronto.
The hosting of the contest has alternated between the University of Toronto and York University. Since 2007, University of Toronto and York University have taken on the complete organization of the contest, including the creation, administration and grading of the test materials, the overseeing of the application process, advertising and liaison with the secondary schools.
The major prizes are bursaries, but there can also be other prizes awarded, such as books or subscriptions which reward other deserving contestants while fostering their language skills. Over the 33 years of the contest’s existence, more than 500 deserving students of French have had their efforts recognized and rewarded.