Since April, the ambassadors of the bonjour my friend tour, Laura Lussier and Shaunpal Jandu, have crossed half of Canada in their caravan in the colors of linguistic duality. They’ve collected dozens of testimonials from people interested in the official languages of our country.
Over the next several days, these ambassadors will meet the people of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Laura and Shaunpal have kindly agreed to answer the questions of the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie to learn more about them, their background and their motivations for participating in the bonjour my friend tour.
A Franco-Manitoban from Winnipeg, a city that remains her home base, Laura Lussier is an actress, director, TV personality, writer and success coach. She proudly works, lives, and creates in both official languages.
RVF: What convinced you to become an ambassador to the bonjour my friend tour?
LL: It's honestly the enthusiasm of Réda Lounis at the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue! He contacted me before the holidays with this project proposal. I had never met him and I hardly knew the work of the Foundation, but Réda’s energy and conviction that I was the right person for this project convinced me to embark.
Beyond that, it was the promise of a pan-Canadian dialogue that got me excited. A project open to all points of view, that encourages the exchange of opinions and the building of bridges, is rather rare. So here I am, on the road, very happy to have all these precious meetings and to start a dialogue at the national level on a principle that affects all Canadians.
RVF: What benefits do you personally derive from linguistic duality?
LL: I have the opportunity to work in both official languages in Winnipeg and across Canada in theatre and TV. I am also a Certified Professional Coach and I have Francophone and Anglophone clients all over North America. I have English and French speaking friends all over the world, and I get to learn two other languages (Spanish and ASL). I can enjoy art and culture in both languages, and I can live two cultures fully. The biggest benefit for me is the openness that linguistic duality (which I have experienced from birth in an exogamous family) has instilled in me. I think it allows me to live my life with great curiosity and connect with people more easily.
RVF: How did the first half of the Bonjour my friend tour change or strengthen your vision of linguistic duality in the country?
LL: I have been lucky enough to cross the country many times, and the openness and kindness of Canadians still amazes me. Linguistic duality has opened the door to the diversity that Canada enjoys today, and the people we have spoken with see the value and importance of this duality to the country's future. My vision of linguistic duality as one of the great factors that unites us remains intact and becomes more rich and nuanced with each province we cross.
RVF: So far, have you noticed any differences in the realities of the different regions visited? For example?
LL: Certainly. Each region of Canada has its particularities and different realities. Living in a minority situation is very different from living in a majority situation, of course. In some areas, there is a sense of pride in how two (or more) linguistic communities live together harmoniously. In others, there is a division or a lack of appreciation for the minority Francophone community. In some provinces, such as Saskatchewan, the Francophone community is extremely scattered, but they manage to get together in their respective communities and to celebrate together at the Fransaskois Festival. That's wonderful!
RVF: What can we expect for the rest of the tour in Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes?
LL: More beautiful encounters, more beautiful discoveries and more great food!
A first-generation Canadian, Shaunpal Jandu is a consultant and trilingual graphic designer. Passionate about language and communication from a young age, he has a long history of working with the federal government, in the private sector, and with the Canadian Parents for French organization.
RVF: Midway through, how do you like your role as an ambassador of the bonjour my friend tour?
SJ: We are just passed the halfway mark (both in terms of east-west in Canada and in terms of the number of provinces visited), and I must say being an ambassador for this tour has been an amazing experience and incredible privilege. Meeting Canadians from all walks of life, students, professionals, retirees and seeing their views on Canada’s official languages continues to be enlightening. To be the means by which Canadians can express their opinions – positive or negative – shows me how Canada is truly founded on discourse and understanding vs. command and conquer.
RVF: What do you see as the greatest challenges related to Canada's linguistic duality?
SJ: I believe the largest obstacle for Linguistic Duality in Canada is, simply, getting the word out. Everyone we have spoken to, thus far, agree that linguistic duality is good for Canada, and not only that, but it also makes for a more diverse country as well. The issue that, Laura and I, often have to describe what linguistic duality is, then people (most often) respond “Oh! Yeah, it’s great! I agree with that.”
RVF: In your opinion, why is it important to mark the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act?
SJ: I think it is important to highlight the 50th anniversary of the OLA, because it is the jumping off point whereby we can discuss the modernization of the OLA. It is an anniversary, but it is also a time to reflect on where we were, where we are, and where we want to go as Canadians with respect to our official languages. It provides the opportunity for us all to help plan and shape the future of official languages in Canada.
RVF: What is the place of other languages in Canadian society, such as Aboriginal languages or the languages of newcomers?
SJ: Many people we have spoken to – regardless of demographics – have said that at the very minimum we need to include indigenous languages as official languages; and whole heartedly agree. On the other hand, the largest concern is which indigenous languages should be added, all 70 of them? Cree? The top 5? Which is something I agree with as well. The logistics of “picking” the “right” indigenous language(s) is very difficult; however, if the modernization of the OLA allows for discussion as to which indigenous language(s) I (and many other Canadians) agree that this would be a huge asset to the OLA.
RVF: How do you think you’ll be touched by the bonjour my friend tour once it's over? Why?
SJ: I will definitely remember this tour. Not just because I’ve had the opportunity to visit Canada from coast to coast in a manner not often experienced by most Canadians, and not just because I’ve lived to see how the stereotype of the “polite Canadian” is a truth. I will remember this tour because we – Laura, Vanessa, Vinnie, and I – have had the opportunity to speak to others about something which is close to my heart, and according to many we have spoken with, a true Canadian value: Canada’s official languages.
To follow ambassadors Laura and Shaunpal, visit http://www.bonjourmyfriend.ca.
The bonjour my friend tour ends June 21 in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Have a nice trip, mes amis!