The Association franco-ténoise du Sud et de l’Ouest helped Hay River residents welcome the bright sunny rays of spring with maple taffy on snow on March 19.

Called a ‘sugar shack’ – or Cabane à sucre- the francophone association’s event drew about 70 people, including young families and children, to Castaways Cottages on Great Slave Lake.

Every year the association orders maple syrup from a board member’s family in Quebec to give residents a taste of boiled maple syrup and snow on a stick.

Mila Benoit, executive director of the association, said she put the event together in collaboration with her partner’s outdoor adventure company Northern Escape.

“We wanted to do an event that has significance for the French community, but that would be interesting for all the Hay River people,” explained Benoit.

“We really wanted to have an event that everyone felt welcome to attend because we’re trying as a French community to be more part of all the Hay River community.”

Formerly L’Association franco-culturelle de Hay River, the group as of January is now called L’Association franco-ténoise du Sud et de l’Ouest.

Benoit, who became executive director following Jessica Payeur’s departure last September, said the name change reflects a new mandate aiming to serve francophones in Fort Smith, Hay River and the Dehcho region.

With additional funding, Benoit has been able to hire a second employee – her sister Léa-May Benoit – as a community development officer to help serve more communities.

Benoit has been living in Hay River for four years, but has experience as an economic development officer with Conseil de développement économique des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CDÉTNO), which has helped her make contacts in both Yellowknife and the South Slave.

The experience has made for a welcome fit for her new leadership position, she said.

“I felt that we needed someone to take over that really knows the French association and understands where it wants to go,” Benoit explained.

“I was like, ‘Well, maybe I can be interested in that position.’ The board, I think, was really excited to know that I was taking over the position because I’m someone that already knows the association well.”

The association typically holds cultural, sporting, and artistic events to promote francophone presence in the North. Benoit said there will be a big focus on Fort Smith this year to build a presence in that community.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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