April 2002
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Canadian or Quebecker? Student Exchange Builds Perspective
By Jacqueline Friesen, Senior 4, Garden Valley Collegiate, Winkler, MB

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Have you ever wondered what it's like to live in a different country? Would the roads and signs look different? Would the people there speak a different language than you? What makes a country a country? Audrey Poulin of St-Georges, Quebec thinks she knows.

Audrey was born in St-Georges, Quebec and until this past spring, she spent her entire life there. To her, Quebec is and always will be a separate country. "We are very different from the rest of Canada," she comments, "and we are the only province that speaks French." Her perceptions, of course, were all based on what she had been taught and heard, as she had never seen any of the rest of Canada.

This past spring, Audrey Poulin journeyed beyond her familiar home. Audrey was given the opportunity to experience the rest of Canada, to see what other Canadians are like. Along with her thirteen classmates from the Polyvalente St-Georges, she participated in an exchange with Manitoba students. Organized by teachers Ms. Lori Neufeld and Mr. Rene Maheux, the exchange began with the visit of thirteen students from Garden Valley Collegiate in Winkler to the Polyvalente St-Georges.

In the second stage of the exchange, the Polyvalente students came to Manitoba on April 2nd. They visited museums, colonies, shopping malls, and schools hoping to experience and realize what the rest of Canada - particularly Manitoba - was like. "Manitoba it's very conservative and all the people are proud to be a Canadian," states Audrey. "We are more proud to be a Quebecker than a Canadian." Audrey was surprised that in Manitoba, the school even played the Canadian anthem prior to morning announcements.

Generally speaking, Audrey says, the people in Quebec like to be referred to as Quebeckers rather than as Canadians. If they had the choice of the two "countries" most Quebec residents would choose to live in Quebec, even if they didn't agree with separating from Canada. "We want to keep the French language and we want to keep the French roots," Audrey explains. "We are proud of the generations before us." To her, it's not so much about being a part of Canada as it is being a part of Quebec.

When Audrey came out to Manitoba, she learned a lot. "I learned more about another culture and got to know people who think differently," she says. "After this exchange I know I want to travel again."

Some of Audrey's first impressions when she came to Manitoba support her belief that Quebec is a separate country. She found that the Manitoba landscape - at least in the southern part of the province - is very different from what she has known. It is flat, while in Quebec there are many mountains and valleys. Another difference Audrey noticed was that it appeared as if the people in Manitoba were more religious than those in Quebec, because of the different beliefs.

Audrey found one of the major distinctions between Quebec and Manitoba was the language. In Quebec, French is the primary language; in southern Manitoba, it is second language for most people who speak it. Manitobans also seem to be more restrained and confined, in terms of rules. In Quebec "you have the freedom to do what you want to do," Audrey declares. These observations, of course, don't hold true for all of Canada, but they definitely helped Audrey prove her point that Quebec is different from the rest of Canada.

A brief visit to a different province, though, has not yet convinced Audrey that Quebec is a part of Canada or that Canada might shape her primary identity. Asked whether she thinks of herself as a Quebecker or a Canadian, she responds: "I'm a Quebecker, because I identify better with Quebec than with the remainder of Canada."

Photos from Audrey's visit to Manitoba
(Click on photos to enlarge)


Polyvalente St-Georges, St-Georges, PQ http://www.csbe.qc.ca/psg/
Garden Valley Collegiate, Winkler, MB http://gvc.gvsd.mb.ca/

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