#Immigration Matters in Winnipeg, Manitoba

An immigrant historian is recognized with the Order of Manitoba for her efforts to help preserve Francophone culture in the province.

Telling the story of Manitoba’s Francophone community

Jacqueline Blay

Jacqueline Blay was born in Algeria. She arrived in Manitoba in 1967 to work as a music librarian at a Radio-Canada radio station, CKSB, in the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg. She was pleasantly surprised to find Manitoba’s Francophone community, and set out to get a better understanding of its history.

At that time, there was a broad-based effort within the community to defend the French voice in Manitoba. Jacqueline understood the importance of preserving a language and culture that were not officially recognized by the province.

Jacqueline’s interest in the culture led her to pursue graduate studies in history at the University of Winnipeg. Her master’s thesis was the basis of series of books that she wrote on the history of French Manitoba. Those books, and her engagement in the community, have won her many awards. But Jacqueline’s greatest motivation has been the desire to share her knowledge.

Mariette Kirouac, a Community Relations Officer with the Economic Development Council for Manitoba, can’t say enough about Jacqueline’s achievements. Jacqueline’s passion for the history of French Manitoba was a real wake-up call for me, and made me realize that I was taking my country, my province, my culture and my language for granted”, Mariette Kirouac says. I was amazed to see how much more she know about the Franco-Manitoban culture than I did. That made me want to learn more about it and to be even more proud of my history and my country”.

After she completed her studies, Jacqueline made it her mission to raise awareness of the factors that have shaped the history of the province’s French-speaking minority communities. When Manitoba Hydro established the post of Francophone coordinator she was the first to hold the position, where she was tasked with developing French-language services policies. The Government of Manitoba subsequently gave Jacqueline the same mandate. She also developed the province’s first history course on Métis and minority Francophones.

"Jacqueline has greatly contributed to the understanding of minority Francophones through her writing and her community engagement …. She is very attached to the principles of diversity, inclusion, linguistic duality, and the Canadian Francophonie in all its dimensions, which have made Canada what it is today".

Ibrahima Diallo, former volunteer colleague

Jacqueline has also volunteered with a number of organizations focused on Canadian history, serving as the head of the Société historique de Saint-Boniface, the Maison Gabrielle-Roy and the Société franco-manitobaine.

“Her engagement in the community has not gone unnoticed. She is gentle, but very strong when it comes to publicly denouncing injustices and promoting or validating Franco-Manitoban culture”, says Mariette Kirouac. “She continually reminds us of the path and the cause that enable us to continue to thrive as minority Francophones. She is an exceptional person, and is essential in our Franco-Manitoban culture”.

Jacqueline is now retired, but is more active than ever. In 2018 she received the Order of Manitoba in recognition of her dedication to the province’s Francophone community.

“Jacqueline has greatly contributed to the understanding of minority Francophones through her writing and her community engagement”, says Ibrahima Diallo, a former volunteer colleague. “She is very attached to the principles of diversity, inclusion, linguistic duality, and the Canadian Francophonie in all its dimensions, which have made Canada what it is today”, Ibrahima Diallo says.

Jacqueline continues to be passionate about her research, which she sees as a way to contribute to her adopted country and give back to the community that has allowed her to have a productive career and a fulfilling personal life.

Immigration profile: Winnipeg, Manitoba (Census Metropolitan Area)

Quick facts:

  • Immigrants in Winnipeg represent a quarter (24%) of the population.
  • The Philippines is the biggest source country of immigrants in Winnipeg, followed by India and China (excludes Hong Kong and Macao).
  • A majority (65%) of all immigrants to Winnipeg between 1980 and 2016 came as economic immigrants, while less than a quarter (22%) were sponsored by family and 13% were refugees.

Did you know?

  • As a result of immigration policies, Winnipeg became the third-largest city in Canada in 1911.

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