From February 4th to 6th, 2020, an “Exploratory mission” organized by the Conseil de développement économique de l’Alberta (CDEA) took place in the Northeast region of the province. Its goal is the creation of the “Northern Alberta Bilingual Tourism Network”.

For the occasion, the CDEA was accompanied by two key partners: the Économusée Network Society (represented by the general manager, Carl-Éric Guertin) and the Francophone and Francophile Cities Network (represented by the general manager, Dominique Sarny, and the project manager, Élise Bégin).

Dominique and Elise from FFCN

This tour started off from Cold Lake where the partners had the opportunity to visit a potential site that could eventually become an Économusée: the Cold Lake Brewing and Distilling Co.

 Later in the evening, the Shaw House (Bonnyville and District Chamber of Commerce) hosted twenty-three people, including mainly municipal elected officials from the region (Town of Bonnyville, MD of Bonnyville, City of Cold Lake and Smoky Lake County). The CDEA succeeded in raising awareness for its initiatives.

First, the President of the Alberta Bilingual Municipalities Association (ABMA), Elisa Brosseau, who is also a councillor in the Town of Bonnyville, presented what the ABMA is and how the association could contribute to the municipalities in their desire to recognize the French-speaking presence in their community, all while seeking to reap, in the medium term, the economic and social benefits with this membership. Mrs. Brosseau was supported by the presence of the Vice-president, Colette Borgun, from the Lac La Biche County. 

This activity also allowed the Francophone and Francophile Cities Network (FFCN) to present its initiatives and to invite the municipalities to join in their network. The FFCN recalled their agreement with the CDEA signed in September 2018. Their goal is to collaborate together on various initiatives, including the creation of a “Northern Alberta Bilingual Tourism Network”.

On February 5th, 33 people gathered in Bonnyville, in the ACFA Bonnyville-Cold Lake offices for a seminar. First, Carl-Éric Guertin was able to tickle the curiosity of several entrepreneurs with his presentation about the Économusée concept and its benefits. 

Let’s recall that the mission of the Économusées is to preserve, develop and present traditional trades and to set up a national network in order to provide the public with quality cultural tourism products. An Économusée is a small-scale production of goods in an artisanal environment, where the focus is on the preservation and transmission of traditional skills and crafts. On this day, there are about a hundred Économusées in the world.

This contextualization of the concept was followed by a truly inspiring presentation by Patrick Dupuis, co-owner and operator of the Old School Cheesery. This small business from Vermillion became the first Économusée in Alberta in September 2018 and couldn’t share enough about the importance and benefits of joining the Économusées.

Patrick Dupuis from Old School Cheesery, the first Économusée of Alberta

In the afternoon, the FFCN presented how they can help support the development of touristic circuits in order to promote French-speaking and bilingual municipalities and communities. 

 In the evening, the delegation travelled to Lac La Biche in order to share good practices and see how the partners could collaborate with Lac La Biche Mission.

Carl-Éric Guertin, CEO of Economusées, present to the Lac La Biche.

On February 6th, the partners had the chance to stop by Smoky Lake to see how a collaboration with the Metis Nation of Alberta, and more superficially Metis Crossing, could fit into the project. 

The delegates at Metis Crossing At the end of these very positives meetings, the delegates set off for Calgary to participate in the CDEA Rendez-vous d’affaires.As a reminder, this Exploratory Mission was made possible thanks to funding obtained by the CDEA from the Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) for its project Developing Francophone and Indigenous Tourism Experiences in Northern Alberta. This investment for this project comes from the Canada Experiences Fund (CEF), which supports Canadian businesses and organizations seeking to create, improve or modernize tourism products, facilities and experiences.