Connecting Canadians through Projet Portage

The Molson Foundation’s bold initiative shares French-Canadian history with new audiences.

Written by Janet Walker and Brooke Campbell

Posted March 4, 2022

In 2017, Canada’s History Society set out on a five-year initiative, Projet Portage, that aims to share the stories of French Canadians. Our goal? To encourage an exchange of ideas and languages and to empower new generations of Canadian historians.

As a national history organization based in Winnipeg, it seemed to us that the journey we were embarking on might be similar to the travels of the voyageurs of New France. Their work in navigating complex networks of trade routes, and in forging links between diverse communities and regions, would serve as the inspiration for our mission.

With the help of some of Quebec’s well-established museums and history societies, and encouraged by a financial investment from The Molson Foundation, Canada’s History found and engaged a group of talented storytellers, young scholars, educators, and curators to make Projet Portage come alive.

The talent and passion of Quebec’s community of historians and emerging storytellers is evident in the projects you will find at HistoireCanada.ca.

These projects, including the award-winning video series Chroniques montréalaises, reveal a range of themes, from Expo 67, to Montreal’s red-light district, to the archaeological excavations of Canada’s first parliament building. We created opportunities for Quebec writers and scholars to share their work widely; engaged documentarians to develop an online video capsule series on Les Basques; and commissioned a series of articles on religious history in Quebec.

Through Projet Portage, we also supported projects initiated by other storytelling organizations and provided a platform to assist them in extending their reach to national audiences.

We are proud to connect French- and English-speaking teachers, scholars, and leaders in the field of history through annual events and celebrations.

Through our administration of the Governor General’s History Awards, we honour excellence in history, with many laureates hailing from Quebec and from French-Canadian communities elsewhere in Canada.

As we complete the fifth and final year of the pilot phase of this project, we celebrate its success in having established a wide network of partners, Molson Voyageurs, and contributors who are sharing more diverse stories of Canada. This valuable work includes the recent publication of a new Frenchlanguage special-interest magazine, 50 Merveilles de nos musées, that uses treasured museum objects to explore the stories of French Canada.

Copies of this special print publication, written by established and emerging French historians, can be purchased at CanadasHistory.ca/50Merveilles.

The tremendous success of Projet Portage is evident in a growing online community that is connected through social media, digital newsletters, and our website, and whose members are eager to discover exclusive pieces of content in French that speak to francophones and to French-Canadian culture across the country.

We’d love to hear from you. Your ideas and support will encourage us to continue this journey together and will help us to connect and to unite Canadians through a better understanding of our shared past.

A Selection from Projet Portage

The Montreal Chronicles

A bilingual video series highlighting the historic DNA of Montreal.

The Basques: Rurality, Resistance, Resilience

Documentarians Julien Gagnon-Rouillard and Robert Majewski explore different facets of rural life by documenting alternative projects taking root in the Basques of the Bas-Saint-Laurent region.

Series: Transforming Religious Heritage

Religious built heritage, from the time of New France to the present day, has been an important facet of Canada’s heritage.

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This article originally appeared in the April-May 2022 issue of Canada’s History.

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