Meet Francis Murphy
We meet Francis at the Campus Val-d’Or of the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue. He is busy reading while sitting in the sun coming from the large windows of the tepee-shaped building. This place is dear to his heart and, he is happy to welcome us here.
“We have hosted our wedding reception here. We wanted to find a meaningful place. The University and the CEGEP are located in the same building. I went to college here. As everyone knows, CEGEP is a significant milestone, a time filled with memories. I met Paul-Antoine then and we started to get involved and to create projects together. It was also when I started to get into politics. I was already involved when I realized the impact I could have in my community. It shaped a huge part of who I am now.”
While he puts his books away, some of the titles catch our attention.
“At a certain point, I had an urge to learn, to improve myself, and to become more complete. I got to enter a master’s degree program even though I didn’t have a college or university diploma. This place, here and now, bears a whole new meaning. Sometimes I have to combine university assignments, a full-time job and my family. I have to find ways to make it work.”
“I feel like coming to the University helps. It’s a soothing place that boosts concentration. But you know, there are places that make you feel good for no particular reason. This is one of them.”
He is right, this place feels unique. The light, the wood…
“This is the Pavillon des Premiers-Peuples, one of the architectural treasures of Val-d’Or. But, it goes beyond the architecture, it is significant for many other reasons. There is one thing that we, the non-natives, should feel guilty about the longstanding paternalistic approach we took toward the Aboriginal people. They don’t belong to us; they are not OUR Aboriginal people. They control their own destiny. Today, we are increasingly able to collaborate and to go in the same direction, together. This place is a good example of an infrastructure that is made available to them to teach the population. But the idea didn’t come from white people who said: ‘We need a university.’ There was a demand for it. The relationship between Val-d’Or and the communities is improving; we can feel it.”
Let’s talk more about Francis. Francis is one of the highly eager ones in Val-d’Or. He is involved in many projects.
“It’s easy when you have all the tools at your disposal to shape your community as you want. Val-d’Or seems to be the place where everything is possible: you can be an entrepreneur, have a great career, study and start a family. It’s important for me to live in an environment where our children can grow, where we can supervise them and give them what is best for their development. We have everything we need here whether it is on the recreational, the educational, the health or the safety level. In addition, we are close, we know each other, we have resources nearby. Raising kids is hard work. We go through all kinds of challenges, but it seems easier in an environment like ours.”
He stops talking for a minute and greet a colleague who passes by.
“Work is easier too. We can do things here that are not possible elsewhere. We consult each other, we talk to each other and we really know each other. We are so used to fighting for our region that our solidarity just became stronger. This is what makes it work. Here a bunch of different organizations are responsible for leisure and sports. When the provincial department wanted to consolidate all the organizations, it worked here but didn’t elsewhere because many small wars were going on. For example, the student sports leagues and the municipal sports organizations didn’t want to merge. Here, the process was natural and it still works today. Recently, we saw a shift in Quebec. But, here in the region, no way! We will stay united. Instead of arguing, we work together. It seems like a natural way of doing things: we each have our expertise and our strengths, so we complement each other.”
What local activity does he recommend?
“We really enjoy going around Lake Osisko in Rouyn with the family. It’s the perfect bike ride for the family. Riding a bike on the roads of Temiscamingue is also really great. You’ll find the most beautiful landscapes there. We have beautiful treasures. There is Lake Timiskaming in Ville-Marie and, in Abitibi-Ouest, you can have a real good time at the Festival du boeuf in Sainte Germaine. Even when I was a vegetarian, I had a lot of fun!”
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