I Came From France With A Lot Of Hope

“My name is Emilia Tamko Mansion, and, well, I came here fourteen years ago. I came with a lot of hope. The first one was to make sure that my son would not experience what I’d experienced, where I come from. I grew up in France, in some disadvantaged area. They call it le 9-3, maybe you’ve heard about it. The suburb of Paris.

So that was the first impulse, to leave France, and to make sure that my son has a better place. And also that I wanted to find a place where I could feel that I belong. This was really the first thing that was in my mind. Well, you’re asking me about what I do now. And what I do now is that I’m the co-founder of l’Université dans la Nature which is a non-profit organization that aims at connecting people with nature. But basically that’s who I am now.”

Integrating Nature Into People’s Lives

“So l’Université dans la Nature is a nonprofit organization that was created in Montreal. And basically what happened is that we, my husband and myself, we bumped into a lot of scientific research that demonstrated that nature has a great impact on health, on human health, whether it’s physical health, whether it’s mental health. And it could be used as an ally for so many purposes.

And most especially, when you look at the challenges that we have today, when it comes to burnout, when it comes to, well, we need more creativity, even education, the education system according to me has to be kind of reconstructed. So we discovered that we could find in nature many ways to integrate it into the civil society, and the system.

And try to, well, like I said, solve a lot of challenges that we’ve inherited since the, well, we are in the fourth revolution, industrial revolution now. We can start a very interesting journey mixing technology and nature. And that’s what we’re trying to do, basically, with l’Université dans la Nature, to integrate nature in people’s life.”

My Goal Coming Here Was To Better Myself

“Since we’re talking here about Montreal, and Montreal had a great role in who I became, and who I am today. Because, like I said, I come from a disadvantaged area, and this is an experience that really, that had a great impact in the way I see things, in the way I live, and the things I wanted to achieve.

So when I got here, well, my goal was really to better myself, to extract myself from the environment I was in. And that environment was quite violent, and that environment was quite inadequate when you want to develop your potential. Montreal was really, for me, a place where I felt that there was hope to contribute to a society. Cause where I come from, we were looked as a problem, as a minority. We were more the problem, I mean, we were more a problem than a solution.

Discovering Montreal, which was a complete, it was, I think it was a stroke of luck, actually. Because it never came to my mind to come here, but it happened. And discovering Montreal was really interesting, because I could see the way people were welcomed here. I could see also a lot of opportunities professionally. Because it seemed that, fourteen years ago, there was a lot of things that could be built, that there was a lot of things to do, actually. Montreal needed a lot of things, still needs now, but it was like a field of opportunities.”

Montreal Welcomes Immigrants To Contribute

“I was in the music industry in France, in the hip-hop industry. That’s what I knew. And when I got here, that’s what I tried to look into, because it was something I was used to, and I had quite a lot, a little success in France. So when I got here, that’s the first environment that I discovered. I discovered those areas here in Montreal. You could call it St-Michel, you could call it St-Henri, and well, the kind of equivalent of what I knew when I was in France.

But I was so surprised because it all so different, but we can talk about that a bit later. Just to make a long story short, what is interesting with my journey in Montreal, is that it started with the type of environment I was used to, but little by little, I saw all the things that Montreal had to offer, and that completely drove my path, and helped me extract myself from what I initially knew, and start looking at myself as somebody who could really contribute. Because there was a place where it was okay, and I was welcomed to contribute.”

My Professional Journey

“I became the director of l’École Du Show Business in Montreal. Which to me is success story, because, like I said, I come from those places, and I end up becoming a director here in Montreal, of a school. And then I continued my path, I met Hubert, I became his manager. Hubert is my husband, he’s a writer. Very successful writer. Then together, we decided to create our non-profit organization. Yeah, so basically that was my journey here professionally.”

Opportunities Are Available To Young People

“I have a reference point. I don’t know if you say that in English, but, having grown in France, and coming here, and meeting the people I think come from the same background, I could see the differences in how Montreal has been able to handle, you know, immigration, handle people coming from everywhere in the world, and what are the solutions that Montreal provided for people, I mean for this kind of process, you know, immigrating somewhere.

And I have to say that I am so proud. I am so proud of this city. It’s not perfect, okay? It’s absolutely not perfect. But I’ve been discussing with people of Haitian in the Haitian communities, in the North African communities as well, even with French people, you know, from all colors, and we all say the same thing, you know? It’s that, okay, there are things to improve, but definitely, Montreal is a place where you have the opportunity to become who you want to become. Simply because, you know, examples like this.

For example, in the education system, I have a fifteen year old boy, and the way, for example, in school, they really make sure that people communicate. You know, there’s this aversion of conflict, and having conflictual interactions. And this alone, you know, teaching that to young kids, this alone breaks a cycle of violence that I’ve seen so many times when I grew up in France, for example. So this is one aspect that really struck me when I got here and I was raising my son. Another thing is all the volunteering opportunities that young people have, you know, to contribute to their communities. I think that’s amazing.

You know, in France, it was absolutely, well, back in the days, because maybe it has evolved now, but back in the days it was so difficult to simply have the opportunity to have a little job here and there, or to, I don’t know, there was, I feel that there was not as many opportunities that I find here. You know, for young people to really be in touch with seniors, to be in touch with different cultures.”

I’m Proud I Chose Montreal

“When you talk about culturally, the amount of festivals that you have here in Montreal, you know? You can learn about so many cultures very easily, you know? Maybe superficially, but if you want to continue deeply to understand other cultures, you have so many places where you can do so, or associations that help immigrants to create relationships with Quebecers.

So you know, all these initiatives, to me, and the efforts that the city and people are doing, and when I’m talking about people, I’m talking about people who immigrated, and want to give back, and want to help those who are coming after them, you know? So this type of, this type of web, you know, that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

I’m pretty proud I chose Montreal, and I’m really proud to see this in here, and to try to talk about it, you know? And when I have some French colleagues who say, “Oh, I wanna go back,” or, “I didn’t find this, I didn’t find that,” I’m so happy to remind them of what they have here, and what they don’t have in the country they come from. And I think this is very important, to do so.”

People Here Are Helpful & Supportive

“Montreal has created a space where you can live and let live. Other cultures, other people. And it’s not just a question of culture. I think even, as a human being, because we’re not just defined with the color of our skin and where we come from. I mean, we are, we have aspirations.

And it seems when you are in Montreal, you feel that it’s possible, you feel that, yes, I can try this, and I will get help. I will get help from people who think like me, and even people who don’t really understand what I’m trying to do, but who want to see things happening in Montreal. So I absolutely cannot put any words on how Montreal succeeded to do that. But I can feel it. And I’m not the only one. This is very particular. This really, when I’m just saying it. As I’m saying it, I really feel that it’s very particular, to have been able to do so.”

Innovating Without Sacrificing Quality of Life

“Montreal is very interested in developing itself as a city, economically, and to have a very safe political system as well. But it seems that it has never decided to sacrifice a type of quality, of interactions between people, you know? So it’s not gonna be done at the detriment of a certain quality of life. And it seems that Montreal is very particular in that way. Because it doesn’t want to let go of that.

It’s as if Montreal is saying, “We want to have everything.” We want this. We want to succeed as a city. We want to be innovative. We want to be culturally fireworks, but we also want people to feel happy to live in this city. And this is unique. Because where I come from, the economy is the reason why, well, only focusing on the economy, and sacrificing the way of life, is what politicians nowadays think is the right thing to do.

And when you see les gilets jaunes and when you see even populism that is rising, it’s because, according to me, and I’m not a specialist, but I’ve lived in disadvantaged areas, so I think I’m an expert in what people need. And it’s not only a job. It’s also to be treated as a human being, and to be allowed to contribute, you know? It’s simple. When you have this, I think you have peace.

In Montreal, honestly, I found peace. And so many people who thought that it was not possible, they are telling me the same thing. So you know, there’s a success here. And I think Montreal can give a big lesson to a lot of countries and cities in the world, you know? And show them what things can be done when you don’t let go of the human part of being a city, and an innovative one.”