By Jennie Hurwood
On Friday, at 2 p.m. June 22 2012, in spite of a downpour of heavy rain, around 100 people turned out to see Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages officially open the Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence Cultural Resource Centre and Métis-sur-Mer Public Library.
The Métis-sur-Mer Public Library is the first bilingual library in the Lower St. Lawrence region and represents a meeting place for people of all ages and all backgrounds to join together through a love of books as well as community activities. Mr. Fraser echoed this in his speech saying: “Your centre will be a great symbol of respect and sharing. Canadians and Quebecers of all generations need spaces to connect with each other.”
Mr. Fraser was undoubtedly impressed by the integration and collaboration between the linguistic communities in the area, calling the Lower St. Lawrence region a “model for a bilingual Canada”.
Representing the younger generation of library users, pupils from grades five and six of Metis Beach School, led by Valerie Sabbah, performed a colourful and memorable dance number to open the proceedings.
Mr. Fraser was not the only one to speak at the ceremony: representatives of the funding organisations, without which the centre could not have been created, attended to express the honour they felt being involved in such a project. Denis Williams (Farm Credit Canada), Jennifer Johnson (Community Health and Social Services Network), Stéphane Dion (Ville de Métis-sur-Mer) and Alain Carrier (Réseau Biblio), all spoke enthusiastically of the project and congratulated Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence (HLSL) for the hard work that brought the centre to fruition.
Local figureheads including Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier and Ms. Danielle Doyer, Member for Matapédia also attended the opening, affirming the importance of such a resource.
The library houses almost 2,000 books, 50% in English, 50% in French; with equal numbers of books for adults as books for children. This bilingual library embodies the best of bilingualism, which Mr. Fraser described as, “the principle of respect for both official languages” something that for many in the area is an everyday reality. He spoke of linguistic duality as a fundamental value of Canada, adding: “Bilingualism is a skill that can build bridges between languages and cultures,”
Story time sessions for children are run on Saturday mornings with readings in French and in English, but books are not all that is available at the library. On summer weekday afternoons, artistic workshops take place to bring together community members for projects that traverse linguistic boundaries, and during the autumn and winter months, health information sessions will take place via videoconferencing link to McGill University in Montreal. All these activities have the aim of bringing people together and breaking theisolation felt by many as a linguistic minority in a rural area. It is as Mr. Fraser said: “The centre will allow your community to come together – it will become the heart of your community, and protect its members against isolation.”
The heart of the community is exactly what this library and resource centre is intended to be and in the words of Mr. Fraser, it will “provide a gathering place where all generations of your community will be able to maintain their distinctiveness, speak their language and keep their community thriving.”
Alexander Reford, President of HLSL, was thanked by Mr. Fraser for “the precious work that he does through Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence in contributing to the preservation and vitality of Quebec’s Anglophone community.” Mr. Reford then took to the microphone to salute the hard work of the HLSL staff in bringing together the centre.
Mr. Fraser congratulated HLSL for its efforts and success in maintaining the vitality of the English-speaking Community saying: “Your organisation does remarkable work to promote the bilingual nature of your community, and I wish to thank you for promoting Canada’s linguistic duality.”
The library offers a special request service, you can look at the catalogue online and check your account and renew books online: www.reseaubibliobsl.qc.cq
You can contact the library at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 418.936.3231 / 418.936.3239
A number of activities take place in the library including Saturday Story time in English and French and creative afternoons, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m.