Did you know that Manitoba is home to Western Canada’s largest Francophone population?
There are many ways for students to experience the passion and history of the Franco-Manitoban culture in the heart of Canada.
Students can visit Saint-Boniface, Winnipeg’s vibrant French neighborhood, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. Saint-Boniface is steeped in French and Métis tradition. Visit the grave of Louis Riel—the Métis rebel who went on to become to the founder of Manitoba—at the Saint-Boniface Cemetery, next door to the majestic ruins of the Saint-Boniface Cathedral. The Musée de Saint-Boniface Museum houses many cultural and historical artifacts, including the most impressive—the building itself! The building is Winnipeg’s oldest, dating back to 1851 when it was first a convent and hospital.
Additional ways for students to explore Saint-Boniface’s storied history include Fort Gibraltar, a replica of the 1810 North West Company fur-trading fort. Here, inside the walls of the wooden palisade, the voyageurs—the French name for fur traders—come to life, thanks to dedicated costumed interpreters.
See the blacksmith at work in his shop, try your hand at axe throwing or barter with one of the merchants. The fort is the epicenter of Winnipeg’s largest annual winter celebration, the Festival du Voyageur. With Francophone favorites like tourtière (meat pie) and maple taffy, the festival also features a jam-packed schedule of live music, cultural programming and massive—and impressive—snow sculptures.
Other neighborhoods in Winnipeg have French roots, including Saint-Norbert, best known for hosting Manitoba’s largest farmers’ market Wednesdays and Saturdays, May through October. Outside of Winnipeg, students will find many communities ready to say “Bienvenue.” Visit the neighborhood restaurants to try their take on a French classic—poutine!
Whether students are looking for an experience in French or want to dive into Francophone passion and history, just say “Oui” to Manitoba!
Content and photo courtesy of Travel Manitoba.