Our Q&A series on Monaco’s Canadian community, in honour of Canada’s 150th, continues with France Shapiro, President of the Canadian Club de Monaco, which will showcase Canada in the Principality across the year.
ML: Can you share some details about Baie-Comeau, where you are from in Quebec?
FS: Baie-Comeau is a small industrial town with a population of over 20,000 (30,000 with its periphery) inhabitants, situated 400 km northeast of Quebec City in Canada. In the seventies, Baie-Comeau had the highest average salary of any town in the Province of Quebec. It is also the birthplace of our Prime Minister of Canada from 1984 to 1993, the Honourable Brian Mulroney.
ML: Can you talk about where you studied and worked?
FS: I studied nursing in Baie-Comeau, then dental hygiene at college in Quebec City and finally, at the University of Montreal, I studied in Administration and Human Resources Management.
I worked in several offices as a dental hygienist and then after completing my licence, I got an administrative position in the dental department of Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal.
ML: How did you end up in Monaco from Montreal?
FS: After sailing for many years in the Caribbean, my husband and I wanted a change of scenery and more culture and so we came to Monaco in 2000. With its culture and fiscal advantages, Monaco is a natural choice for Canadians.
ML: What do you enjoy most about living in Monaco?
FS: For me, without a doubt, it’s the accessibility to culture in all its forms. In Monaco, like in major cities around the world, you have the opportunity to see the nec plus ultra – the best of the best.
ML: What is a misconception people have about Monaco?
FS: I must admit that it is not easy to make friends in Monaco as people come and go a lot. And there is also reservation because most people are expats. That said, once you get involved, people are very open and welcoming. The trick is to break the ice.
ML: You are President of the Canadian Club de Monaco. How did you become involved and can you tell us about the club?
FS: Since moving to Monaco, I’ve been a member of the Canadian Club. It’s a very good way to integrate into Monaco’s social life and meet people from different backgrounds.
The Canadian Club de Monaco was founded in 1987 and is an active social club, with some 25 different activities a year, like a meal together, concerts, the ballet, conferences … We have an average of 80 to 100 members each year, and all the proceeds from membership fees are redistributed to charitable organisations in Monaco.
I became president because it was my turn to serve and help, and get more involved to bringing on new activities. This is a big year for Canada, as 2017 marks the 150th Anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. On this occasion, the Canadian Club de Monaco is working with the Consulate of Canada in Monaco to make this year memorable for those living in the Principality. Throughout the year, events will be organised to showcase Canada and its culture, and we will share the program with Monaco Life readers once it’s finalised.
ML: As you travelled a great deal, what was your reception like as a Canadian?
FS: It is fascinating and even surprising how Canadians are perceived worldwide.
We are appreciated for our accessibility, our simplicity and our joy of life. Another aspect of being Canadian, which is very valuable, is that most Canadians are bilingual in French and English, which gives a versatility to communicate easily.
ML: Why are Canadians unique?
FS: Canadians are humble. We are very inclusive as we think that two heads are better than one. This attitude makes us cooperative and gives us a facility to work as a team.
ML: What does it mean to you to be Canadian?
FS: I am so proud to be Canadian and I am so patriotic that it is sometimes a bit ridiculous. Like Bono and Obama have said: “The world needs more Canada”…
Article first published January 26, 2017.