• John Jantak

First-of-its-kind regional event recognizes academic achievement in the Anglophone community


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. (left), St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo at a special youth gala that recognized Anglophone elementary school students from the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region for their academic achievements last Friday, May 31.

Anglophone elementary school students from the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region were recognized for their academic achievements at a special youth gala in L’Île-Perrot that was hosted by the Montérégie West Community Network (MWCN) last Friday evening, May 31.

The first-of-its-kind event for Anglophones in the region honoured 56 students from 11 elementary schools under the auspices of the Lester B. Pearson School Board. The children received awards in one of three categories – perseverance, excellence, and leadership. Some students also received bursaries from the Caisse Desjardins de Vaudreuil-Soulanges for their academic excellence.

Anglophone community celebrated

The gala served two objectives. The first was to celebrate the entire Anglophone community throughout the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region, said Clément Bergeron, coordinator of the event. “It’s to give a hand out to our youth and tell them ‘you’re doing well’,” said Bergeron.

The second objective was to publicize the MWCN and make sure people know there’s a non-profit organization in the region that provides services for the Anglophone community.

Bringing people together

The MWCN strives to develop a strong and vibrant English-speaking community in Montérégie-West which includes Vaudreuil-Soulanges by bringing together individuals, community groups, public organizations, professionals and businesses, said Bergeron.

The gala was attended by 430 persons and was held at the Paul-Émile Lépine Community Centre. L’Île-Perrot Mayor Pierre Séguin welcomed all the guests and congratulated the students for their achievements.

PHOTO COURTESY BETSY AIRD

Five Grade 6 students from Hudson’s Mount Pleasant Elementary School received awards at the youth gala including (back row, left to right): Anisha Dickson, Katherine Koberstein, Paolo Brunetti. (Front row): Zoe Dorcas, James Lasalle, Alexander Aguirre-Freud.

Recognizing youth achievements

“We’re here tonight to recognize the work of young women and men who are our future. This is what I want to see – students who want to excel, to help their classmates and to make a positive impact in our society,” said Séguin.

The event was also attended by Vaudreuil-Soulanges Member of Parliament (MP) Peter Schiefke, Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for Soulanges Marilyn Picard, and Vaudreuil Liberal MNA Marie-Claude Nichols.

‘Wholehearted support’

“Any opportunity that we can get to highlight the incredible work of young people in our community is one that I support wholeheartedly,” Schiefke told The Journal. He said Anglophones make up one third of the community in Vaudreuil-Soulanges and the number keeps increasing each year.

“I think we have the largest proportion of Anglophones in the Montérégie. We need more events like this. I was really happy when I was told this was going to be happening. I was wholeheartedly behind it when they asked for my support. We have to make sure Anglophones receive as much support as Francophones in this area, particularly with the number we’re at right now,” said Schiefke.

Provincial MNAs honour students

Picard expressed her support for the English population. “I’m very proud of the students and I’m glad to be here to honour them. The Anglophone community is just as important to the region as the Francophone community. My son is going to an English school in Saint-Lazare,” said Picard.

Nichols pledged her support for the Anglophone community as well. “It’s a beautiful event. I’m really proud to be here to represent Vaudreuil. There’s a large English population in Vaudreuil. It’s a nice community and I think it’s really good for them to have the kind of visibility they’re having tonight,” said Nichols.

Mayors highly regard Anglos

Saint-Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo said the event was a great way to get the English community together. “There’s a large percentage of Anglos in certain communities. In Saint-Lazare, we’re talking about 38 per cent Anglophones and 42 per cent Francophones. It’s obviously very important because the Anglophones represent a large proportion of the population,” said Grimaudo.

Notre-Dame-de-l’Île Perrot Mayor Danie Deschênes also supports her English constituents. “We have an Anglophone community that’s very important. Even though we’re not allowed to write any official documentation in English in our community, we do so because we respect the fact they’re here; they pay taxes and live in a beautiful city. We do our best to take care of them properly,” said Deschênes.

‘All Anglophones are important’

Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald said the event was fantastic and a long time coming. “I have pressure from 18 per cent of my population which is Anglophone. They want more information in their language so they can understand what’s going on. I’m willing to bend over backwards to make that happen but we don’t have official bilingual status so it’s a little more difficult,” said Gruenwald.

“But I can assure you every time an Anglophone comes to the Rigaud council meeting and asks a question in English, he is answered in English. It’s very important to me. Each citizen is important. When I have 18 per cent Anglophones, it’s clear they’re all important. I accept their tax dollars so they should be entitled to get something in return,” Gruenwald added.

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