Visiting Gatineau, Quebec, and its Maison du Citoyen: cultural efforts with an international dimension

Flag of Quebec
Flag of Quebec | Source
City Hall at Gatineau, Quebec
City Hall at Gatineau, Quebec | Source
Map location of Gatineau, in Quebec
Map location of Gatineau, in Quebec | Source

Plenty to see and do

The Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) at rue Laurier , Gatineau, Quebec, otherwise known as the Maison du Citoyen (House of the Citizen), is striking for the sheer range of services: cultural and municipal, that are offered here. Here in Gatineau, the Maison du Citoyen is actually close to the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Musée canadien des civilisations ), which is Canada's most visited museum, the distinction being that the Maison 's cultural facilities are sponsored directly by the City of Gatineau. (The comments below are not remotely exhaustive, nor are they presented in any particular order of importance.)

One important facility at the Maison du Citoyen is the Galérie Montcalm . Every year, this Gallery usually mounts six art exhibitions every year; among the significant exhibitions here have been historical works by the illustrator Jean Dallaire , who has specialized for many years in depicting scenes from salient events in the history of New France. The Maison du Citoyen has also collaborated in providing an Online access point to a large selection of important historical illustrations by Jean Dallaire which are particularly relevant to French Canadian history and culture.

A branch of the municipal library is found in the Maison du Citoyen. Gatineau's library system also sponsors literary creation. Included among special programs has been that of Ecrivain en résidence (Writer in residence). In cooperation with the Association des auteurs et auteures de l'Outaouais (Outaouais Authors' Association) candidacy is open to competition from members of Québecois and Franco-Ontarian writers' professional associations. The library system also organizes storytelling sessions.

The Salle Jean-Despréz (Jean Despréz Hall) is the venue for various, regular musical and other functions.

In 1982, the Regiment of Hull / Le Régiment de Hull was presented with new colours by The Right Honourable / Le Très Honorable Ed Schreyer, Governor-General of Canada / Gouverneur-Général du Canada; its old colours were subsequently given for display at the Maison du Citoyen of what is now called Gatineau.

The Hall des nations (Hall of the nations) at the Maison du Citoyen contains a collection of works of art presented to the people of Gatineau by the representatives of many countries. These include Mexico, Portugal, Egypt, Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, Philippines, Brazil, Greece, China, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Thailand, and Morocco. Examples of these works of art include: the mosaic base of a fountain area situated by near the entrance to the Maison du Citoyen presented by HE the Moroccan Ambassador; a fine example of traditional embroidery presented by HE the Bulgarian Ambassador — I recall that this item stands out in my mind, from my visit to the Maison .

It seems to me that the idea behind the existence of such a wide collection of international art of quality sponsored by the Gatineau municipality is evidence of a strong, collective desire by citizens and their representatives to participate directly in cultural engagement with other nations of the world. This is particularly striking, since it would doubtless have been all too easy for local people, by default, to leave to nearby Ottawa and its officials the task of liaising with the many resident Embassies and their cultural attachés. Such a collection also marks the definite willingness of diplomatic missions in Ottawa to engage meaningfully with Quebec's fourth city, as they look beyond English Canada in their efforts to radiate significant, cultural exchanges.

Thus the citizen of Gatineau, and the visitor, is very well provided for in terms of cultural opportunities provided under the patronage of the municipality at the Maison du Citoyen ; and these are in addition to the many other cultural facilities in the Gatineau area.

Also worth seeing

Le Lac Pink (Pink Lake; distance: approx 8 kilometres) offers a very interesting example of what is known as a meromictic lake; display panels describe various of the lake's features.

Le Domaine Mackenzie King (the Mackenzie King Estate; distance: approx. 13 kilometres), is where the longserving Prime Minister of Canada, whose name the Estate bears, lived for many years and where he hosted such visitors as F D Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill . The Estate contains Kingswood , Moorside and The Farm , the first two of which being open to the public; The Farm is the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons' official residence.

Ottawa , Ontario (distance: approx. 2 kilometres) possesses cultural treasures, structures of architectural excellence and noted museums which are too numerous to mention properly here; but a few of these include Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, the Chateau Laurier, Laurier House, the Rideau Canal, and the Bank of Canada's Currency Museum.

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How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa; car rental is available; however, visitors may wish instead to use OC Transpo public transit for travel within Ottawa / Gatineau. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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