Meet the Award Winners: Paulette Gagnon, Margaret Aerola and William Burton
2018 Ontario Francophonie Awards
The three recipients:
PAULETTE GAGNON - FRANCOPHONE AWARD
Originally from Hearst, Paulette Gagnon began her career in the 1970s and worked in a number of community organizations.
She was instrumental in the professionalization of the Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario (TNO) in the 1980s. A natural builder and unifier, she headed La Nouvelle Scène theatre in Ottawa while it was being constructed and during its first few years of operation.
Paulette Gagnon devoted herself tirelessly, whether it was the TNO, La Nouvelle Scène, the Théâtre français du Centre national des Arts, the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française (where she served as president) or the Association des théâtres francophones du Canada (where she implemented major projects that helped shape French-Canadian theatre).
Most recently, Paulette Gagnon joined forces with a group of cultural organizations in Sudbury, le Regroupement des organismes culturels de Sudbury, to advance the highly significant Place des Arts project to build a francophone creative space in the heart of downtown Greater Sudbury.
Paulette Gagnon passed away in October 2017, on the eve of the federal government's announcement of funding for the project. She was 62 years' old.
As a mentor for generations of Francophone artists, cultural workers and creators, she was a humble and accessible role model who gladly supported anyone who approached her for advice or a helping hand.
Paulette Gagnon spent her life fighting to keep Francophone culture thriving in Ontario. "Identity is important. When we don't have a clear identity, it makes us more vulnerable," she said in an interview with TFO in 2015, for the show Carte de visite.
MARGARET AEROLA - PRIX FRANCOPHILE
Margaret Aerola has been the Administrator at Bendale Acres for the past 19 years. Prior to taking on this role she was a Director of Nursing with the City of Toronto Long Term Care Homes and Services. A seasoned health care professional having graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing from the University of Toronto, she pursued a varied career path.
Margaret Aerola believes that the ability to communicate in one's mother tongue and to receive services in one's language has an impact on the outcomes for Health and Quality of Life. The challenge to provide these services to a minority Francophone population in a very diverse but primarily Anglophone population has led her to develop many new partnerships, expanded opportunities for clinical education and volunteer opportunities for Francophone and Francophile students, and most recently to work with health partners to develop an Optimal Model for Francophone Long Term Care.
"The commitment and passion of the members of the Francophone community, the pride of the staff of the Pavillon, the willingness of community leaders and health professionals and the support of the Long Term Care Homes and Services Division of the City of Toronto have provided for me personally the most significant experience in my professional journey in public service", says Margaret Aerola.
WILLIAM BURTON - YOUNG FRANCOPHONE AWARD
William Burton is actively involved in the French-speaking committee and in a number of cultural industry activities. His numerous achievements include his work with the social enterprise Le Réveil, which keeps Ottawa's Franco-Ontarian community informed about cultural and artistic activities happening in the area.
Despite his young age, William has already received several awards. In March, he won the "Créer ton entreprise en 24h" (Create your own company in 24 hours) contest held by the Centre d'Entrepreneuriat de la Cité for Le Réveil. In 2016, at the Gala du Prix Bernard-Grandmaître, he earned the Laurier jeunesse de l'année award for his work as an ambassador for the Francophone community at his school. William also won the ''Méga-Fun!'' award at the 22nd Jeux franco-ontariens in May 2015. This award, which was inspired by the work of Félix Saint-Denis, recognizes the involvement and dedication of young leaders in Francophone Ontario.
This young leader, in particular, takes his role of ambassador of the Francophone community in Ontario very seriously. His perseverance in pursuing his dreams makes him a role model for Francophone youth.
"William has managed to make quite a name for himself within the arts community," said Maёva Leblanc, project consultant at Réseau Ontario, who works closely with William. "Actually, it's difficult to describe all of William's contributions to the next generation of Franco-Ontarians because he is involved on so many fronts," she added.