Quebec Ambassadors

Marjorie Aunos

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Marjorie’s life was simple but nice. It was composed of raising her brand new baby boy Thomas, going back to a job she loved after her maternity leave, enjoying the company of her friends and family, a good balance of everything!

After a beautidul week with her family at her parents’ cottage, Marjorie was going back to the city for two days to work. Her 16-month old son was staying with her parents and sister up north for the weekend. When Marjorie left, it was a beautiful winter morning. She was driving with love in her heart from having had so much fun and her car slid right when a pick-up truck was driving in the opposite direction. She knew right away that something bad was going to happen and the accident happened, leaving her paraplegic.

Marjorie spent 5 months in the hospital and intensive rehabilitation centre, while her son was being taken care of by her parents. Marjorie fought hard in rehab as all she wanted was to walk again. Being a ‘good’ mom meant being a ‘walking’ mom. Then she realised that even in a wheelchair, she could accomplish a lot and that motherhood could still happen the way she had imagined, but with a little help here or there. With determination and the will to be a GOOD mom, Marjorie learnt all the skills necessary to not only take care of herself but also her son.

As Marjorie will share with you, she has gone back to work as a manager in health and social services. She raises her son with the physical help of her parents. Marjorie also travels for work and has gone to Halifax (as soon as 6 months after her accident), Paris (France), Turku (Finland), Vienna (Austria), and Hawaii. She has relearned to drive with her hands and she makes sure that she does everything that she would have done with her son if she were standing. She does not allow herself to be limited, nor does she want her son to feel limited by her physical challenges.

I won’t dwell on things I cannot change. Instead, I will honour every single muscle I can control by using them to their full capacity for everyone who cannot! Just like I would love to see ‘walkers’ use their legs and go up the stairs instead of using elevators.
– Marjorie Aunos

Véronique Bélanger-Bastille

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Before her illness, Véronique played a lot of sports and she was very able. She was very strong and there was nothing she could not do, including cut grass for hours. She had her own horticultural company. Because of her condition, she changed careers and went back to school. This has made her very happy as she is studying a field in which she has always wanted to work: music.

At 32, Véronique woke up one morning with debilitating dizziness: vertigo caused by Ménière's Disease. She could not walk alone, eat or even wash herself. For a week, she was completely bedridden. She had very limited activities for six months. The attacks returned several times. Now she pays attention to her sleep, her diet and her stress levels to prevent the return of the disease.

Ménière's Disease has changed her way of seeing life. Now she knows that everything can change and one must be able to adapt.

Véronique has a daughter and she wants another child. She wants to work in a school as a teacher. She wants to have a music studio to record her music album and make a career in the field. It a dream she has had for long time and, now, she can accomplish it.

Life is sometimes very difficult, but we have to keep faith in this star that shines bright upon us. We have to look up at the sky and see how beautiful life is. As long as there is hope, there is life. Anyone can make a difference in someone’s life, so be that difference.
– Véronique Bélanger-Bastille

Alexandre Dubé

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Before the first symptoms of his illness appeared, Alexandre took part in many outdoor activities with his friends. As so many young people his age, Alexandre dreamed of becoming a professional hockey player. He had many projects. We could even say that he felt that “the sky was the limit”.

When Alexandre was 11 years old, his parents told him that he suffered from a rare disease. Alexandre met many health specialists as a youth. He therefore understood rather quickly that his life would be different from what he had dreamt of when he was younger.

Alexandre knows that giving up is never an option. He went to university and studied very hard to obtain a Diploma in Communications. At 24, he received his diploma and got his first job at 25. To this day, he still has tons of projects running through his mind.

Alexandre Dubé is determined to spread the message that a person with a physical disability can contribute to the life of the community. You will understand the dreams and ambitions of people with disabilities are not different than your own!

I do not believe that people are bad or inherently cruel. Sometimes, they simply don’t understand. That is why I love to share my past, present and future with a group. Each person can learn something from my experience, including me.
– Alexandre Dubé

Steve Fortin

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At the age of 4, Steve was diagnosed with degenerative pigmentary retinitis which means that his vision would be limited to 10% and that his field of vision would be restricted to the size of looking through a drinking straw. Moreover, his doctors also advised his parents that his vision could remain stable or it could deteriorate to the point of completely losing his vision.

At the age of 8 (grade 3), Steve’s vision unfortunately deteriorated and this life event was very trying since he had to learn to work with a white cane for the blind.

Steve’s entry into high school was one of the most difficult steps in his journey due to having to fight to gain access into the regular school program, as well as being subjected to bullying from his peers. Up to this point, Steve had always been welcomed and treated as a regular person notwithstanding his disability. This time proved to be different as he was excluded from his Phys. Ed. class (his favourite class). This denial led him to feel very isolated.

Nonetheless, Steve met a friend of his father’s by chance one day on a walk with his dog. This gentleman kindly introduced him to a football team. Those four years were marvelous as he had a chance to play on this team and accumulate a few records. Unfortunately, he had to stop playing football and he had to abandon his studies as his vision was rapidly declining. His situation obliged him to move to Quebec City since he now had to learn braille while learning to function as a visually impaired person.

Steve only resumed his studies several years after his recovery and readaptation. He started by completing his last year of high school to then embark on a college accounting course. However, he was not able to complete the program since the tools used were not adapted for a person with a visual disability. His instructor suggested he apply to university. Steve doubted his ability to do so at first, however, he quickly realized he possessed all of the skills necessary to succeed. Steve is currently completing his multidisciplinary Bachelor’s degree at Laval University. Next fall, he will finally be the holder of a Bachelor’s degree, an accomplishment of which he is very proud.

Adept at sport, Steve has had the opportunity to play several different ones, however, he has fallen in love with shot put and has been playing the sport for the past three years. There are only two blind shot put players in Canada and Steve’s dream is to join the Canadian team.

Gisèle Lamontagne

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Gisèle was a good student, young for her grade but content. By age 10, she dreamt of diving in the Olympics and then becoming an oceanographer to study sea mammals and create marine farms. She was very active, very curious, and truly believed her dreams could become reality.

At 14, as she was practicing some dive moves on a trampoline on a beach, she fell head first into the sand. Her left arm was very badly broken. The arm was fixed. Six months later, a serious back injury was discovered. Doctors fused her spine to prevent paralysis.

Gisèle spent four months in a body cast and six months in a back brace. She knew her dreams were gone. She only hoped to walk again. If she lived in a wheelchair; what would she do? She decided she would teach and write; but, only IF.

Strangely enough Gisèle did become a teacher, a writer and a translator. And, a mother who developed pre-natal aquatics when pregnant with her daughter so as to avoid a back brace. And now, for twenty years a counsellor specializing in trauma and grief counselling and working with children and families.

Speakers such as Gisèle help remind people facing challenges that there is always a new growth and new possibilities; as for people who do not face such challenges, please see what we CAN do, not what we can no longer do.

I don’t intend to just walk; I intend to run, to dance, to soar!
– Gisèle Lamontagne

Janike Gagnon-Lacoste

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Janike had a wonderfull life, living in the Caribbean, working in a hotel in the Dominican Republic as a General Manager for few years. She was wishing to have a family there.

A friend took her on his shoulder, for fun, and they fell down. She probably hit her head somewhere, and broke her neck which left her quadriplegic.

She was repatriated to Quebec City where she faced reality, adapted herself and kept going.

She is now training, playing volleyball and rugby, taking some courses at university and part of a dance troupe called “Gang de roue.” She is enjoying life with her family and friends.

Living with a spinal cord injury might not be easy every day for different reasons but worth it.
– Janike Gagnon-Lacoste

Kathie Prince

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Before her accident, Kathie worked as a receptionist in a sports centre. She and her husband were talking about marriage, children and buying a house. She loved going biking and hiking. Kathie did not have a care in the world, all was well in her life.

It was June 17, 2004, a beautiful summer evening. Kathie and her best friend were at a comedy show. During the intermission, they decided to step outside. They were on the side of the road when a taxi hit her.

Kathie spent 15 months in hospital and in a Rehab Centre. All her dreams had just been crushed. But, she never lost hope, always remained positive and never asked : why me?

Kathie is a stay-at-home mom. She has an adorable three year old son and a puppy. She still lives with her childhood sweetheart; they have been together now for 20 years. They have faced all of their challenges together.

When people first meet me, they notice my wheelchair and then they notice me. When they get to know me, they see the determination in my eyes. I LOVE my life! I wouldn’t change a thing in it! I bite into life!
– Kathie Prince

Sylvie Roy

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Sylvie was born with retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumor on the retina of her eye. As a result, she has a visual residue of less than 10% in her left eye and has an ocular prosthesis in her right eye as Sylvie’s right eye was removed at the age of 5 months.

Sylvie lived alongside sighted individuals despite her visual impairment. In 1995, her life changed when the optometrist confirmed the percentage of vision she had remaining in her left eye. From that moment on, she moved forward in life, obtaining visual adaptations to support her in her studies and employment.

When Sylvie was a little girl, she knew that she was different from other kids. However, her parents encouraged her to pursue her goals and to believe in her dreams. Deep down inside herself, she dreamed of being a lawyer but she was afraid to go to high school, so she refused to continue her studies.

Today, Sylvie is completing a Master’s degree in university. Her research is related to persons with disabilities with visual impairments. Sylvie has two daughters, as does her partner.

Living with a visual, hearing, or physical disability shouldn’t prevent people from believing in others as their ability to succeed lies within them. Step by step, we can all learn to look at life through the eyes of the heart.

I wonder why there is a lack of understanding today regarding the activities of daily living of people with disabilities? I believe that technology and the diverse ways in which we communicate today can help us to show our peers how we achieve our potential.
– Sylvie Roy

Vincent Tremblay

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Vincent was a mountain biking athlete and someone with limitless energy. He lived life to the max, making the most of everything that life had to offer. He is very tactile and loves to create things with his hands. Mechanics, travelling and sport are what he is most passionate about.

Vincent’s accident occurred July 19, 2005 during a mountain biking training session. He got cut off by a car and fell off his bike onto the sidewalk, head-first. He broke his spinal cord. Given that his spinal cord injury occurred at the level of his neck, he became quadriplegic.

Vincent’s life revolved around being in motion! He was always happiest when he was moving and he especially loved working with his hands. Suddenly, from one day to the next, all of that changed. Vincent could no longer do everything he loved to do before his accident. He therefore reorganized his life according to what he was still able to do.

Vincent still works out using an arm bike and he makes the most out of life. He is completing a technical degree in industrial engineering and also a course on starting one’s own business. At the moment, he is the head of a non profit with the goal of opening an adapted fitness centre in Québec City.

Often people realize that their problems are small compared to what we are living and they are very impressed by the way we can talk about it and live it. As a result, they realize that they have more than enough potential to be successful.
– Vincent Tremblay