Next month, Memorial student Gillianne Beaulieu will make her way across the North Atlantic to connect with the Francophone community of Brussels. As the internal vice-president of the Fédération des francophones de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador, as well as the outgoing president of Franco-jeunes de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador, she will be representing the province as part of an Atlantic Canadian delegation to Belgium organized by the Société Nationale d’Acadie.
The purpose of her upcoming trip is for the Acadian Francophone community of Atlantic Canada to re-affirm their agreement with their counterpart community in Brussels, a city where 80 to 90 per cent of the inhabitants speak French as a first language. The agreement allows the two groups to share expertise regarding French language and culture, as well to bring them closer together despite the thousands of physical kilometres that separate them.
Ms. Beaulieu, a second-year political science and business student who was born in French-speaking Shawinigan, Québec, believes the agreement is also essential to Acadian youth in Atlantic Canada, as it may make it possible to create cultural exchanges between Canadian and Belgian young people. She encourages all Newfoundland and Labrador francophone youth, especially those studying at Memorial, to get involved, saying that “these experiences are so life-changing and so amazing.”
Aside from her executive positions on provincial Francophone associations, Ms. Beaulieu also holds the title of vice-president of the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française, a national organization devoted to organizing annual events for Francophone youth across the country.
“Canadian Francophone youth have to embrace their heritage and be proud,” she said, adding that Francophone university students need “a greater knowledge and awareness of what’s out there” for them. Beaulieu says she hopes that her upcoming trip to Brussels as well as her membership in provincial and federal organizations can help mobilize Francophone youth at Memorial and around the country to get involved in their culture and heritage.