O Canada! Tour hits Moose Jaw school

Nathan Liewicki
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Interactive promotion of Francophone culture on display

The O Canada! Tour kicked off its inaugural tour of Saskatchewan in Moose Jaw on Monday.

Palliser Heights student Liam Avery speaks into a microphone as Taslimah Budureea (left) and Avery Garner (right) during a workshop for the 'O Canada!' Tour, presented by Canadian Parents for French, that stopped in Moose Jaw on Monday.

An interactive event designed to engage Saskatchewan youth in a celebration of linguistic duality and cultural identity, O Canada! aims to build appreciation for Francophone culture and Canadian heritage.

“It's a way of providing a unique and different way of teaching Canadian history and elements of Francophone culture and history in a way that will hopefully engage, encourage and inspire students,” said Karen Pozniak, executive director, Canadian Parents for French (CPF) Saskatchewan.

That teaching was on display in the school’s gymnasium as artists Léandre Bérubé and Paul Cournoyer put on a performance that included art, music and theatre for Palliser Heights’ 520 students.

The bilingual performance focused on historical experiences and important national moments such as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Louis Riel, Confederation and Women’s Suffrage.

Presented by the CPF, Monday’s performance was preceded by a workshop for Grade 7 and 8 students.

Bérubé and Cournoyer prepared the students with lines that were included in the performance. One of them – translated from French to English – was ‘poutine is a food, not a Russian President.’

Jackson Woloschuk, a Grade 8 student, was responsible for saying those words in front of his schoolmates. He was also excited to learn things about Canada.

“I hope to learn more about Canada’s history,” he told the Times-Herald.

Woloschuk is one of an estimated 50,000-plus Canadian students in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Yukon are expected to enjoy O Canada! performances and take part in workshop sessions.

The lone school in the Friendly City on the tour’s 16-school schedule from Feb. 3-14, Palliser Heights Vice Principal Jonathan McLean said it was a great chance for students to be part of an entertaining and academic-geared tour.

“Any time that you can have performers that are not just presenting, but presenting with students is really neat,” McLean said. “And just to have a bilingual performance when you are a dual-track English and French school is a wonderful opportunity to grow Francophone culture.”

Altogether, the O Canada! Tour is expected to entertain and provide educational insight to upwards of 5,000 students in French-Second-Language programs across Saskatchewan.

“This is a way of showing students that French is much more than learning in the classroom,” said Pozniak. “It's bigger than that.

“We live in a bilingual country where youths will hopefully continue their French studies and choose a career, or choose something where French will be very meaningful to them.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Palliser Heights School

Geographic location: Canada, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

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