Basketball Bridging the Linguistic Gap in Saint-Laurent, Manitoba

In Saint-Laurent, a bilingual rural municipality in the province of Manitoba, the linguistic gap between the English-speaking and French-speaking communities is narrowing. The reason, sport, in this case basketball, helps to bring these two communities together on the same field.

Indeed, in this small town of around 1,500 inhabitants, an hour’s drive northwest of Winnipeg, the boys who make up the basketball team, Les Loups, come from two different schools and speak two languages different.

But on the ground, they use both English and French.

With all the boys, we are very close, testifies the team’s star striker, Tyson Christiansen.

We go to different schools, but I still think we are very close, his teammate Tyrell Jolicoeur agrees.

Working to unite communities

However, this was not always the case for previous generations.

Mélanie Sparks is the principal of the Aurèle-Lemoine Community School.

She grew up in Saint-Eustache, speaking Métchif, and settled in Saint-Laurent 12 years ago.

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The director of the Aurèle-Lemoine Community School, Mélanie Sparks, says she has worked to bridge the linguistic gap between the French-speaking and English-speaking communities of Saint-Laurent.

Photo : Radio-Canada / Travis Golby

In Saint-Laurent, everyone seemed to have been grouped together in a certain way, she explains, remembering that it took her a little time to fully integrate.

We have the lake people, the cottagers [..]. We also have the Métis, but there are the French-speaking Métis and the English-speaking Métis, details Mélanie Sparks.

So the community seemed very divided, I wanted to bridge those differences.

Ms. Sparks explains that she worked with school staff and parent volunteers to ensure that everyone felt welcome at the French-speaking school, regardless of their language or accent.

Efforts which seem to have paid off since the number of students at the community school has increased by 40% over the last 6 years.

Despite this, École Aurèle-Lemoine does not always have enough students to form sports teams. Just like the English-speaking school.

The former principal of the Aurèle-Lemoine Community School, Crystal Millar-Couchene, was captain of the basketball team during her youth.

So it was very important to me that the basketball program continued to develop here at Saint-Laurent, she confided.

And then I said to myself that it would be really good to get everyone involved.

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Crystal Millar-Couchene, was captain of the basketball team growing up.

Photo : Radio-Canada / Travis Golby

The two women then met and decided to create a joint team between the two schools.

In just two years of existence, the team has already reached the regional championships twice.

Many people say that groups come together through the power of sport, says team coach Byron Deogracias.

And obviously, that’s what they did with basketball.

With information from Emily Brass

2024-03-20 18:10:53
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