February 2010 : Francoise Sigur-Cloutier [fr]
As told to Corinne Cecilia. Translation by Anna Bogic.
You have been working as a Communications Manager at Radio-Canada Saskatchewan since 1994. Could you tell us a bit about your role and responsibilities?
I am responsible for the promotion, publicity, marketing as well as employee, audience and community relations for all of Saskatchewan.
What is your typical day like, and what do you like most about your every-day work?
What I like most about what I do is that there is no typical day – I plan as much as I can the tasks that need to be done: meetings with my colleagues, graphic designers, promotion previewing, partnerships, follow-ups, but there is always an email, a phone call, or a visit that makes my day richer, and I don’t mind it at all!
How do you see the future of the francophone media in Western Canadian provinces?
Francophone media in the West are essential to the development of communities that they serve. They provide continuous communication between groups separated by distances, and they allow them to reflect on themselves and on others. The role of the media is to question and provide a space for this questioning that helps us move ahead. It’s often said that francophone communities are under the media’s magnifying glass: this can also be… demanding!
You studied in France; how has this helped you with your international career in Canada?
Yes, I studied in France but also in Canada. This double education worked well together and helped me to adapt to the Canadian West. My knowledge of French that I acquired in the South of France had to solidify firmly since I lived in a minority setting and I had to defend my language, for myself, my children, my community. The English that I learned in high school certainly helped me to communicate and to be open to what we call here the majority community. Living and studying in Western Canada was a great opportunity for me to perfect my written and oral English.
For 7 years now you have been the president of a French-language publishing house in the West: the Éditions de la nouvelle plume. Tell us more about this fascinating project.
I must begin by saying that this volunteering project is a work of passion, great passion! We get to publish books, work with authors, and by doing so we try to help this new literature to grow its roots in the land where the winds are so strong! Day by day, after an already long day at work, the work here is becoming more demanding and the challenges are great: entering the market, book distribution, they all demand energy and resources. And this energy and resources are not won without a fight. Taking into consideration all the possibilities that we are aware of and the resources that we have invested in it, there is still room for improvement. For several years now, the Éditions de la nouvelle plume has been the torch-bearer for Western Canadian authors and Prairie francophone culture, and I am very proud of it. I continue to believe in the project and I continue especially to motivate and mobilize the team to keep this literature alive and help it to blossom.
You are also the vice-president of the Regroupement des éditeurs canadiens-français (the Group of French-Canadian publishers). What has the greatest importance for you in your community involvement?
I have been involved with the Regroupement des éditeurs canadiens français since 2005, and it has been a logical step following the same direction as Éditions de la nouvelle plume. I was able to discover, especially with my colleagues who are also minority publishers, that not only are we not alone in this difficult struggle, but also united we can find untapped markets and solutions, that we can find means to do what we want to do and use this synergy in a creative way. Being in contact with other colleagues, who come from a wide variety of publishing houses, is very enriching. However, managing a national organization with a number of employees certainly brings its challenges: development of solidarity, funding, and the issue of human resources, to name just a few. And this takes time: time spent travelling, in meetings, conference calls, reading documents, and doing political representation. Trying to keep a balance between what is essential and important and what is part of the commitment and what could be “interesting” requires constant juggling.
For about twenty years you worked for women’s groups. What are some specific challenges that women of Saskatchewan face?
Starting in 1975 I found in the women’s movement a lot of answers to my questions regarding injustice in different situations. Slowly, through my actions, reflection and my reading, I found myself joining groups or forming groups. I am still one of those who dare to call themselves a feminist, because I believe in the equality of the sexes and because I have strong feelings against injustice. When I came to Saskatchewan, francophone women were divided into two on a number of levels: urban vs. rural, “young” vs. older, pro-life vs. pro-choice, just to name a few. Today, 20 years later, the challenges women are facing are no longer exactly the same – the groups that I knew are almost all gone, mostly due to lack of funding…and time; women now have access to everything, they are now on all the fronts, but they continue to be the main care-givers for children, the family and everything that is related to the continued functioning of this small nucleus. Because of the urbanization, economic situation, disintegration of families, women now mainly live in cities and try to juggle their many responsibilities – the work-life balance is a source of constant stress. They do a lot of volunteering work since it is a way for them to keep certain services, and it is their volunteering work that solidifies communities. When I first came to Saskatchewan, it was mostly men who were at the head of provincial associations, and then all that changed. What women need now, in Saskatchewan as well as in Canada, is the support that they found in their circles, in their organized groups, but also an analysis of the new situation that they are living but have not necessarily chosen – when their fight was especially geared toward having more choices!
You like the mountains, downhill skiing and hiking. You also sing in a gospel choir. Tell us more about these “captivating” activities.
When I came to Calgary, I fell in love with those majestic mountains, the Rockies. I wanted to discover them so I learned how to ski, both downhill skiing and cross-country. I also discovered them by foot through some unforgettable hikes with my family and friends as well as by biking. I enjoy them every time: a day in the mountains, whether in the summer or winter, gets rid of all the stress! Singing has always been part of my life; as long as I can remember my mother used to take me to her choir rehearsals, even when I was little. Since then, singing has been a part of my life, it thrills my heart and my body, especially gospel singing where we have to be in harmony with each other, where we feel together the thrill of singing lyrics carrying true messages of peace, understanding and love… These recreational activities are a constant source of rejuvenation and good physical condition! Already with the first snowflakes I get the urge to get into my ski boots!
Your province has had tremendous economic success and offers great possibilities for the future. What advice would you give to the people who are thinking of moving to Saskatchewan?
Saskatchewan has been going through what I would call a silent boom; the economy is stable and we are still preserving those things that make our life here good! The future holds very interesting possibilities for anyone who is ready to embark on this adventure – but how do you do that? With two official languages, English and French – that is already a good start; with an education background or a technical specialization, and/or with an entrepreneurial spirit. I would suggest a good dose of open-mindedness and readiness to pour your heart and soul into your work, because just like the pioneers who built this province, you must not be afraid of hard work; this is not the Klondike and people are not panning for gold in the rivers, but we do find gold in the generosity of our fellow citizens and in the fruit of our work.
I would like to add that I am married to (patient) Michel Cloutier, have 3 (beautiful) children and 9 (fantastic) grandchildren!
Thank you Françoise!