NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF FESTIVAL DU VOYAGEUR
Saint-Boniface, June 20, 2023 – It’s with joie de vivre and an eye to the future that the President of the Festival du Voyageur confirms Breanne Lavallée-Heckert’s appointment as the organization’s Executive Director, effective July 4, 2023.
“Festival du Voyageur’s mythology is that its genesis is linked to a Métis Ballsy Bastard who would have turned 100 years old in 2024. It’s only natural, then, that we feel comfortable in the capable hands of a new generation of Métis Brave Beauties to guide us into the present and into a future that allows for the full cultural emancipation of our community,” says Eric Plamondon, President of Festival du Voyageur.
A young leader with an impressive track record
To understand the genesis of Breanne Lavallée-Heckert, you have to travel to Ste. Ambroise, near Lake Manitoba. It was in this Métis village that Ms. Lavallée-Heckert understood that she was part of a family and an Indigenous community unique to this territory. But it was through Festival du Voyageur that she understood that a community is formed when it gathers to share cultural moments, smiles, and laughter. As a young adult, Ms. Lavallée-Heckert divided her time between Ottawa and Montreal, where she served the Senate of Canada and its members, while receiving an education in law from McGill University. Having also worked in the Official Languages Branch of the Department of Justice in Ottawa, she focused on issues relating to the rights of linguistic minorities in Canada, including Francophone communities and Indigenous languages. Her time in Montreal was marked by the founding of The Flo Collective, a social enterprise that facilitates access to menstrual hygiene products for those living in northern and rural regions of Quebec. Following her studies, Ms. Lavallée-Heckert continued to make a name for herself in climate action through environmental decolonization and Indigenous advocacy.
Her return to Festival du Voyageur began as an apprentice snow sculptor with her sisters – members of Red River Echoes. “Carving snow requires the development of a relationship between me, between us, and the water in this form that is unique to winter. Every day, the snow had a different characteristic and therefore guided what we could do with it.
I quickly realized that Festival du Voyageur, as a winter celebration is, by its very nature, an opportunity to build community relationships through culture, but also to build a deepening of our relationship with the land and our environment at a time when it is uniquely Manitoban,” says Lavallée-Heckert as she reflects on her relationship with Festival du Voyageur. It’s not an easy task to be the leader of a leading cultural organization, but I know that Festival du Voyageur has become the largest Francophone gathering in Western Canada through to the role that community members play as festivalgoers, volunteers, workers and leaders. So, it’s easy to promote the essential joie de vivre that is found at the core of our organizational values.”
About Festival du Voyageur
Festival du Voyageur inc. is a francophone non-profit organization founded in 1969 that offers artistic and educational experiences inspired by the era of the voyageurs of 1815. The first edition of this winter festival was held in 1970. This annual 10-day event in February is now the largest francophone event in Western Canada, welcoming over 75,000 festivalgoers annually. The festival showcases the arts in a variety of disciplines, including music, dance, snow sculpting and visual arts, with an emphasis on Francophone and Indigenous artists. Outdoor family activities, over five stages of performances for all ages, historical interpretation, snow sculptures, handcrafted souvenirs, and traditional food enrich the festival experience. We also put on year-round artistic events in the same spirit as the Festival du Voyageur.
Additionally, Festival du Voyageur inc. has a strategic plan that focuses on the festival participants’ experience as it relates to the essence of joie de vivre. Festival du Voyageur prioritizes initiatives aimed at reconciliation with Manitoba’s First Nations. We are committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion, ensuring the implementation of every facet of Manitoba’s francophone community at every level of our organization. In 2023, we understand that we need to continue to integrate the impact our festival has on the environment into our operations plan.