Kenza Zaoui - Translated by Thea Wortley

One of the questions about Saint-Boniface and Manitoban francophonie that comes up often is “why?”  Why do we speak French here?  And the follow-up question – why is it so important? 

Visiting all of the different institutions will give you a better understanding of the role the French language plays in the historic Red River Colony – especially in visiting Fort Gibraltar or the Saint-Boniface Museum – but it’s by watching the At the Heart of Manitoba’s Francophone Community documentary that you will find the final piece of the puzzle, assembling all of the elements.

The documentary starts with the discovery of what was not yet called Manitoba by Pierre de la Vérendrye in 1738, the first voyageurs, the fur trade, and the Métis.

The list of names and events goes on, but this is not a lesson in history, it’s a lesson in resistance.

We are told decade after decade and law after law about the situation of the French language in Manitoba.  At times accepted, rejected, tolerated, prohibited, or valued, being able to speak French and teach French in schools is a legal battle that spans over many years.  Today, thanks to this resistance, we have three levels of service in French superimposed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and federally, the Franco-Manitoban School Division (DSFM), French media, and immigration that perpetuates the French language.

Langevin, Riel, Forest, Provencher, La Liberté, all these names are more or less synonymous with the documentary which (re)explains who these historical figures are.  The institutions aren’t left out either, from the SFM to the 100 Noms, the Festival du Voyageur, and the Saint-Boniface University.  Francophonie is alive in Manitoba, its cultural existence is proof.

At the Heart of Manitoba’s Francophone Community is about 40 minutes long.  It was created in 2018 in the context of a project positioning Francophone tourism with the goal of identifying the narrative that describes the Francophone community.  It’s a must-see, whether you’ve been in Manitoba for a few days, a few months, or your whole life!

You can watch At the Heart of Manitoba’s Francophone Community for free, Monday to Friday at 9:00 am and 4:00 pm in French and at 12 noon in English, at the Tourism Riel office located at 219 Provencher Blvd., and viewing times are also offered on weekends.