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Dr. Lorraine O’Donnell

Dr. Lorraine O’Donnell

Research Associate, QUESCREN
Affiliate Assistant Professor,
School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University

October 2019

Role within QUESCREN

I create opportunities for people to produce or hear about research on English-speaking Quebec, including publications and conferences, and I help disseminate information through our newsletter and online tools. I also carry out research projects of my own, and participate on projects run by others.

When did you become involved in QUESCREN?

In 2008, a year before it was launched.

Focus of research

While I have done research on topics such as seniors and immigration, my own field is History, particularly women’s history and English-speaking Quebec. One historical activity I find really rewarding is working on exhibits co-created by community groups. One of the ones I worked on was called “Housewife Heroines.” It involved creating an exhibit, in partnership with Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network, based on interviews with Montreal-area women about the unpaid domestic work they and their mothers did during World War II. These included activities like planting what were called Victory Gardens in their backyards!

Another favourite was called “Being Irish O’Quebec.” For that McCord Museum project, I was the curator and got to comb through archives and museum vaults, and met up with many community members in their homes, to locate meaningful objects to display in the exhibit. The St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal and the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society were the exhibit partners.

Activities outside of QUESCREN

I recently joined ‘Siamsa’, a traditional Irish choir.

Please describe community vitality in your own words.

I see vitality as the opposite of vulnerability, namely, strength, capacity, self-knowledge, cultural expression and economic stability.

What is one way that you have observed QUESCREN support the vitality of Quebec’s English-speaking community?

The Inter-Level Educational Table (ILET) is a project that brings together people from the English-language education sector. At our meetings and at our 2018 Forum, I saw the capacity of very engaged people involved in education to come together to generate creative ideas to educate youth and the overall population in the face of challenges such as vulnerability, isolated communities and legal restraints.

What has been one of the most memorable activities that you have been involved in with QUESCREN ?

At our Forum on Education and Community Vitality, Welsh scholar Colin Williams, who promotes evidence-based policy development in Wales, was asked to sing, which he did. Everybody loved it and it conveyed what community vitality really is: cultural preservation and pride brought to bear, that brings people together and moves them forward.

Please describe anything in particular that has made a strong impression you during your own research or work with QUESCREN.

The openness of certain English-speaking Indigenous individuals to talk with QUESCREN and participate in our activities. This opens up very exciting possibilities of working together, especially given the complex history of colonialization, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how this evolves.

I am also continually inspired by the dedication of community groups in supporting their populations and contributing to research and knowledge mobilization. I’m thinking of groups we’ve worked with for years, including Quebec Community Groups Network, Eastern Townships Resource Centre, Centre for Community Organizations, Townshippers’ Association, Voice of English-speaking Quebec, and Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders, to name just a few.

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