The ability to speak another language in today’s world of disappearing boundaries and enhanced communication is invaluable. The capacity to exchange ideas and information in our neighbours’ language and the insight into the culture and history of our co-workers derived from that study are a necessary part of mutual understanding.
As a country that prides itself on being multicultural, we can only benefit ourselves and others by improving and enhancing our language skills. The department of French, Spanish and Italian offers this and more.
Professor Laporte wants to understand how the French-Canadian minority in Manitoba dealt in the past with the loss of its linguistic and school rights in a multicultural context. In light of the newspapers and archival records, he compares the French-Canadian ideology with the respective background of other minorities in Manitoba (the French immigrants, for instance). He also takes into consideration the cultural discrimination against the French Métis since the Louis Riel’s hanging, as well as the new promotion of their heritage in the Franco-Manitoban community.
Professor Laporte has promoted the French and Métis minorities in his French-Canadian civilization course (FREN 3850). He also provides thesis supervision for two graduate research projects financed by the SSHRC: 1. The intercultural issue between French speakers and English speakers according to the Manitoban press after 1970 (M. A. thesis); 2. The ideological link between the literature for children and the press in the French-speaking communities outside Quebec (Ph. D. thesis).
In 2003-2004, Professor Laporte asked some international scholars, as well as Franco-Manitoban poets, to contribute in an edited book related to the minority identities (Laporte, Dominique, ed. L’Autre en mémoire. Québec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2006). He also welcomed some representatives and scholars from Winnipeg as guest speakers at the University of Manitoba. He has just published a book chapter on some Métis characters in Canadian theater (in Hopes, Jeffrey, Lecossois, Hélène, eds. Théâtre et nation. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2011. 189-201). He is currently preparing the second edition of Claude Dorge’s Le Roitelet (Éditions du Blé), a Franco-Manitoban play where Louis Riel is on the stage.
Professor Martinez has been working for years on research related to the black communities that live in the rainforest in Colombia. These are disenfranchised communities made up of descendants of former slaves. Their traditional lands in the forest are presently under threat from several external forces. She has interviewed some of the most important leaders in these communities and is about to publish a book with this material.