Grade four students from the Alaqsite'w Gitpu School in Listuguj, and École Père-Pacifique in Pointe-à-la-Croix, Que., went sliding together Thursday morning during an activity coordinated by The Harmony Project.
It's an initiative aimed at building relationships between native and non-native students in the Quebec community, just across the border from Campbellton, New Brunswick.
"A lot of adults would come up and ask questions about The Harmony Project and they would say right away off the bat that language causes a problem," said coordinator Pierre Vicaire.
Most of the children from the Quebec school speak only French, while many of the children from Listuguj speak English.
"If they're having fun, if they're colouring or sliding, it means no language barrier. It's just having fun together, smiling and laughing," said Vicaire.
The project began in 2002 as a response to racial tensions in Pointe-à-la-Croix.
A skateboard park had been constructed in Listuguj, down the road, and children were having a hard time sharing the space.
Eventually, the Quebec municipality submitted a survey to students, asking about their community.
'We gotta try to find a way to bring this up to the point of racism, this prejudice attitude, to build harmonious relations rather than putting it into confrontations.'
- Pierre Vicaire, The Harmony Project
"Questions were put like 'what's nice, what's ugly, what's dangerous,' all kinds of stuff. And a lot of the negative stuff that was coming out on answers was towards native kids," said Vicaire.
"What's ugly? A native person. What's dangerous? A native person."
Vicaire says the community realized there was a deeper issue than shared use of the skateboard park.
"We gotta try to find a way to bring this up to the point of racism, this prejudice attitude, to build harmonious relations rather than putting it into confrontations, and that's what it was evolving to."
Project Harmony was born. The initiative started as a few programs a year, such as shared classes and presentations.
The only difference is language
Project Harmony has since grown to more than 50 outings throughout the school year, including field trips like Thursday's sliding session.
During the summer, the partnership continues through the local youth centre.
Vicaire says students from Listuguj often invite their new friends from Quebec to birthday parties, and true friendships have formed.
When asked to describe their neighbours, children from Listuguj used words like "awesome" and "kind."
Pointe-à-la-Croix students say, in French, that the only difference between Listuguj students and themselves, is their language.
Vicaire and his committee are working with community leaders to expand The Harmony Project to other schools in Quebec and into New Brunswick.