Our interview took place a few steps from the place where Guy grew up, which used to be a log building without electricity or running water, located on the shore of a bay in Kempt Lake, Manawan. Guy is known for his determination and fighting spirit, qualities which no doubt come from the principles instilled in him by his grandfather. Born in La Tuque in November 1969, Guy, a talented athlete who is currently the principal of Simon-Pinecic-Ottawa elementary school, was raised by his grandfather, a hunting and trapping guide, and doting grandmother.
Never forgetting how arduous it was to collect wood to heat his childhood home, he made it his mission to work hard to improve the quality of life in his community. Although he went to a residential school as a teenager, he notes that he didn’t suffer the sad fate of his biological parents. They suffered sexual abuse and violence in Catholic residential schools.
Guy admits that he demands a lot of himself, both professionally and personally. He also emphasizes that playing sports was a lifesaver for him. “Having experienced the difficulties of my community, I always wanted to pay it forward by improving the quality of life for youth,” he says frankly.
During his college days, he envisioned a career teaching computing or mathematics. His studies at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi prepared him for the education field, and he went on to work as a physical education teacher for four years. In 2002, he was appointed as principal of the elementary school in Manawan, an Atikamekw community with more than 2,400 residents. It’s a place dominated by young people, with 60% of the population under 30!
Accepting and listening to youth are priorities for Guy in his daily work as a leader in education. In his role as an administrator, he strives to offer the best possible learning environment and materials to help students achieve their full potential. “It’s the youth of my community who will build the nation of tomorrow and ensure the development of our culture, identity and economy,” he notes.
The various efforts he has made to improve the community’s well-being have paid dividends. Guy is recognized for achievements such as the construction of a new elementary school, the establishment of a breakfast club offering a meal to all students each morning and the opening of a daycare service at the school. A hockey player in a league for ages 35 and over who takes the ice four times a week, he’s now working on setting up a hockey scholar program at the local school level. He also accompanies groups of disadvantaged youth on long bike excursions around Lac St-Jean, and somehow finds time to do spinning as well!
A proud, committed man of action, Guy believes in the importance of influencing society’s leaders so that governments will listen to and support indigenous institutions. “Aboriginal communities should be given equal treatment,” he states. “Dialogue between different social groups, openness toward the world and other cultures, and recognition of young people should be at the heart of our civic activities.”