To go on a quest for a comforting place outside of one’s home is essential. To leave your hometown, to discover the world and to then share your experiences – all to enlighten the dreamy eyes of those who stayed put and let you go with a heavy heart.
Western Canada has attracted me since my teenage years. I saw it as a mythical place where Quebecers gathered to enjoy the outdoors and to pick berries in the Okanagan. In my mind, we escaped there to make some cash, learn English and meet convivial wanderers.
I have traveled a lot since I was 16 years old. I wanted to discover the world and different cultures. My being a member of the First Nations of Canada allowed me to meet other American and African tribes who identify as Indigenous. Traditional medicine was our common interest.
A day came when it hit me right in the face. I loved traveling so much, but had forgotten my adolescent dream: to explore the vast territory that was my country. With my partner and my two daughters we left Quebec last spring, in search of adventure and the Rockies. With the family’s luggage piled into the truck, Maxime, my partner, was ready to face the Trans-Canada highway to the pacific coast. I was going to join him later, by plane, with my two daughters of 7 months and 2 years, while he prepared our cozy nest. We planned to leave for only a few months, so that my partner could work a little while I explored the country with my daughters and learned the language of Shakespeare. That was what we thought without knowing what the future really had in store for us.
I had quite the surprise when I arrived in Vancouver. After so many other trips, I couldn’t believe that a single five-hour trip by plane would take me to a hundred countries at once, all in one place. I was and I am still fascinated by Vancouver.
The west also shows respect for Aboriginal people. I learned that the people of the west made it a point to recognize Aboriginal rights before every public statement. I witnessed it during a show in town. The opening of the event began with this declaration: “We are grateful to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations for welcoming us to their traditional territory.” I even received emails with this same tribute in the automatic signature.
Where I was born, people live in a rural environment, surrounded by the boreal forest and a shallow lake that provides us with food, calm and comfort. People come to spend the summer, but leave as soon as the cold weather arrives. Let’s say that the other ethnic groups are much less common in outlying areas compared to the major centres. As soon as a person displays a different mentality, wears motley clothing, speaks with unknown expressions or has a distinct spirituality, they attract the curious of the village. Through telling their stories, these people from elsewhere have the gift to let us travel while remaining in the comfort of our village.
In Vancouver, the view of the mountains, the green spaces in the city and the cherry blossoms decorating the streets in May are even more charming than in my teenage dreams. However, it is above all the interesting individuals that I meet that feed my daily fascination. Here, the simple act of rubbing shoulders with diverse people within this grandiose landscape helps me to define my own Québécois-Ilnu culture. Strangely enough, this wealth of cultures helps me to forge my own identity, because I immerse myself in each person I meet to become a better person. Metro Vancouver is a place where people from all over the world have chosen to live in harmony with nature and with the city.
I would say that a culture is not a stagnant state. It is specific to each individual and evolves at the same time as the spirits open. Our genes do not define who we are. We decide who we want to become. We determine if we want to do good around us. Culture is opening oneself up – thinking, acting. It is choosing beliefs that we can connect with according to our innermost convictions.
Translated by Barry Brisebois