Daniel Cournoyer and the local story

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I love Edmonton because… of its arts and culture, its river valley and its "je ne sais quoi."

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If you’ve ventured into the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood during the beginning of March, chances are you noticed art, music and even people racing down ski hills in canoes (you read that right - canoes). The creator of the Flying Canoë Volant Winter Festival, Daniel Cournoyer sat down to talk about the city he calls home and the importance of the local story. 

 

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Two teams of racers sit in red canoes at the start of the ski hill course.
Courtesy of Explore Edmonton

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Q&As

Q: Tell us about your relationship with Edmonton.

Daniel: I grew up in St. Albert, and I have roots in this province since 1891! In fact, all four branches of my family settled in Alberta between 1891 and 1913. Alberta is home and I have had so much opportunity here and had no need to go anywhere else - though I have been offered many times.

 

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I am proud of my city and I have grown with it. Anything is possible here; we are a young vibrant city with so much potential.

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Q: Talk about your role at La Cite Francophone

Daniel: I am the Executive Director of La Cité Francophone and have been with La Cité since 2012 (10 years). My objective was to break the silo effect of cultural centres in general. Usually you only come into a cultural centre because you are part of the family, have been invited or have a very specific reason. As a proud Franco-Albertan, I want Albertans to experience French culture in a meaningful way. Since my arrival we have taken over the food and beverage services, opened Café Bicyclette, created the Flying Canoë Volant Winter Festival, opened our public gallery Galerie/Cité and present over 30 live music concerts per year as part of our Music Patio series running from June to December. This is done with the objective to create access to French culture in Alberta, create community connections and offer a glimpse into who we are as a cultural community. I want La Cité Francophone to be a cultural catalyst and a community hub for all to experience. 

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An elaborate stacked meal with layers of cucumber and vegetables.
The Jardin Bicyclette recipe - one part local ingredients including Boulangerie Bonjour, Pinocchio Ice Cream and Four Whistle Farm, assemble with some gravity defying techniques, add a dash of flair and bon appétit!

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Q: How has being in Edmonton impacted you and your work?

Daniel: Edmonton has provided me with opportunity and a chance for me to impact my community. I not only work at La Cité Francophone, I live in the neighbourhood that surrounds it. I believe in great cities and thus great neighbourhoods. I am happy that I can have such a positive impact on the neighbourhood that I live in, but also on my city. I want Edmonton and La Cité Francophone to be a destination for its residents and to all who come to visit. The French connection!

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Describe Edmonton in 3 words.
Daniel: Everything is possible.

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Q: Talk about the support of the Edmonton community?

Daniel: Flying Canoë Volant is built on community participation, integration and collaboration. Flying Canoë Volant is more than a festival - it's an adventure! Flying Canoë Volant wants to create an environment for cultural exchange. Our directive is that we don't want you to observe a culture, we want you to experience it with the goal to create a meaningful exchange. Whether it is a race in a canoe down a ski hill, a jig or a reel at Métis camp, a friendship round dance at the Indigenous camp or a good old French Canadian Kitchen Party. Flying Canoë Volant is there to create a cultural experience and exchange like no other. We don't want you watching, we want you to participate.

 

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A festival performer dressed as a winter wizard and guests at the Indigenous camp at night.
Courtesy of Explore Edmonton

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Q: Tell us about your involvement in the Flying Canoë Volant festival.

Daniel: Upon my arrival at La Cité Francophone I once again wanted us to open our doors and share our culture. Flying Canoë Volant is now 10 years old and I am happy with what we have been able to do in such a short time and more importantly where we can bring it in the coming years. As the creator and initiator of the Flying Canoë Volant Winter Adventure we want to keep you moving to help you stay warm as well as provide you with a unique Edmonton experience! More importantly, we want to tell our Edmonton story through the legend of the Flying Canoë Volant (La chasse galerie in French). Taking this French Canadian tale and adapting it to our Edmonton story. We are a city that was based initially on the fur trade, a gathering place for all and an example of true community collaboration. 

Q: How do you hope to see Edmonton evolve over the next 20 years?

Daniel: I see much growth in the years to come and I would like to see our city distinguish itself as a unique destination and perhaps an Austin, Texas or Portland, Oregon of the north, without losing who we are as a people and a city. We need to tell our story and ensure that it is sincere and comes from within. 

We are young, innovative and courageous. A newer city full of ideas and potential. We don't have the Rockies as a backdrop or a Stampede, but we have our people and our unique story to tell.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Daniel: Our challenge is that we are a young city full of people who have just arrived or recently laid roots. In the past we have tended to import ideas from elsewhere/where we come from rather than where we are historically and today. 

I am a huge believer in the local story - the challenge is that it is a story of stories and not one singular thing. As a Francophone from the West I often use the example of the Sugar Shack or Cabane à Sucre analogy. A Cabane à sucre is from the East and therefore imported (no sugar maples here). Though we all love Maple taffy/syrup, with Flying Canoë Volant I am sharing the story of three founding minority cultures (Indigenous, Métis and French) who gather under the banner of the Flying Canoe to celebrate the beauty and the magic of a long prairie winters' night. Telling our story and all the while including an element of our cousins from the East.

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