Finding new adventures and opportunities in Manitoba

October 30, 2018

When he landed in Manitoba in August 2017, 17-year-old Elliott Gaillard wondered why his parents, Sébastien and Vanessa, had made him move to Canada. A year later, at Thanksgiving, he thanked "his dear parents" for bringing him to Manitoba. Those words deeply moved Sébastien Gaillard.

"We arrived from France on August 3, 2017, with two teenagers in tow," says their father. "We stayed in an Airbnb for the first weeks, and my son wondered what we were doing here. Then he started attending Collège Louis-Riel, and he never asked me again! My daughter, Manon, was immediately in her element. She has a group of friends and is involved in theatre and music. I see my children thriving. Manitoba is good for them."

Sébastien Gaillard had grown weary of France and decided to look for adventure in another country. "We had travelled all around France and done a lot of things. We wanted to discover new cultures and new ways of life." Canada was the perfect choice for the nature lover. "It's a great combination of the great outdoors and modernity. We also liked the Canadian philosophy."

The Gaillard family started the immigration process five years ago. "My wife and I visited Ontario and Quebec. We started the procedure for Quebec but there were complications. In the meantime, we continued our research. We contacted Brigitte Léger, and I made an exploratory visit here in April 2016."

Sébastien Gaillard was very busy during the week of his visit. "I tried to make the most of my time. I explored Winnipeg on foot. I stayed in an Airbnb run by locals and experienced Canadian hospitality first hand. Brigitte Léger helped me prepare a schedule of people to meet, and I also did my own preparation. I was surprised by the number of contacts I was able to make in five days. In France, after you reach a certain age, you aren't worth anything. In Manitoba, all of my experience and creations were important."

A year and one month later, the Gaillards received permanent residency. "We were anxiously waiting to come. We settled all of our affairs in France in two months. The kids finished school and we left. We didn't know Manitoba; it was a new place to explore. Its geographic location at the heart of the continent, just below the Arctic, near the US border and close to South America was a motivating factor for us."   

After they arrived, Sébastien and Vanessa Gaillard made finding work a priority. "As a father, I had to quickly find a way to feed my family. Ten days later, I began having interviews. I could see that it wouldn't be easy, but I was ready to do anything. I started working full time in a call centre. Then I had an interview for a position at the Maison Gabrielle Roy museum. I wrote them every week to find out if I got the job. It took them a month to decide."

Vanessa Gaillard began working as a substitute teacher for the DSFM (Franco-Manitoban school division) two months after she arrived. "She supply taught in a number of schools. Then, in January, she got a full-time position at École Christine-Lespérance, where she stayed until the end of June. She is currently working again as a supply teacher while waiting for a full-time position to become available."

Sébastien Gaillard has also been able to explore his artistic side in Manitoba. "Canada has been an incredible help with my writing, and I'm so grateful. I've done more in one year than I ever imagined possible. In France, I was an author and a publisher, but I just didn't fit the mould. It was painful. Here, I see that my work is worthwhile, and it's very motivating."

One year after coming to Manitoba, Sébastien Gaillard says he is delighted with his decision. "We've had a very good first year. I expected it to be more difficult. I love my work, and I would never have had the opportunity to get a job like this in France. We continue to be amazed with what we discover about the province…it's wonderful. The city is booming artistically and culturally. It is growing significantly and has a role to play as one of Canada's major cities."