Building on strength
French community gets a pep talk

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 25/97) - Rebuilding a broken spirit has become a priority for a teacher from Ottawa who recently visited Yellowknife's French community.

Lise Paiement spoke to students of Ecole Allain St. Cyr on Friday and was the keynote speaker at a dinner Saturday night. She talked about her identity as a French-Canadian at Northern United Place.

"A lot of people think we're flying saucers," she said. "People know we're there, but they just don't see us. There is a French voice outside Quebec."

Paiement, who travels around the country talking about the French connection, said the country's two languages make Canada, and they differentiate it from the United States.

Paiement says her speaking about her Franco-Ontarian background is a way of bringing people together.

"What I'm doing is actually giving a conference on Canadianship and Americanism," she said.

"I'm a Canadian and I'm a French-Canadian," she said.

Still, being French-Canadian brings with it a sense of segregation. Paiement's energy and pride in her roots bring a kind of excitement to being French -- it is part of what is Canadian.

The French community in the North is, yes, further away, but no further removed, from other French Canadians, according to Paiement.

"You can't say people are removed," she said. "The whole concept of using communications to help get rid of the feeling of isolation is important for people."

Paiement talks about her own life experiences, but they are much more than that to her listeners.

"It's not just my life that I'm talking about," she said. "People can relate to what I'm saying."

"To me, it's who I am and it's what I am," she added.