“This is our story” | The Press

The story begins in Port-au-Prince with parents looking for happy days for their child. It continued into a jungle where migrants risk their lives in the hope of getting a better one. Nothing suggested that it would end up one spring day on a red carpet in Montreal.

This is the fabulous epic of Rayan Dieudonné, child star of the film Kanaval by Henri Pardo, whose Montreal premiere will take place on April 25. Those who have already seen Rayan walk the red carpet of the Toronto International Film Festival in a suit and tie might have imagined that this screen-breaking child actor grew up in cotton wool. The reality is that Rayan, a child from Roxham Road who made the perilous migrant route in 2018, has come a long way. From a universe without rhinestones or sequins woven with courage and tenacity.


Rayan Dieudonné, headliner of the film Kanavalwhose Montreal premiere will take place on April 25

Rayan was 6 years old when he arrived in Quebec in December 2018 with his mother and little sister after crossing the Darién jungle and ten countries in extremely dangerous conditions. The moving film Kanaval of which he is the hero tells the story of a Haitian child like him snatched from his island prey to the violence of the dictatorship in 1975 and deposited on a strange planet called Canada.

“Does this sound like your story?” », I immediately asked Rayan’s mother, Pascale Louis Jeune, who welcomed me to Laval, where the family recently moved.

The 41-year-old mother, a beneficiary attendant who will obtain her practical nursing diploma the day after her son’s first year, shook her head no.

“That doesn’t sound like our story. It is our history. »

A story both hard and beautiful of exile, resilience and starting again.

Pascale Louis Jeune left Haiti in 2015, three years after Rayan’s birth, to find her husband David who was working in Venezuela.

“I looked at Rayan and I said to myself: ‘With us, there is no future for my son, there is no hope’”, she said, referring in particular to insecurity and lack access to education in Haiti.

Rayan was able to go to school in Venezuela. Pascale became pregnant. Quickly, the small family saw their hopes for a better life in this country crumble as Venezuela fell into a serious crisis, leading to an exodus.

One day, her husband heard about a route that migrants take to go to the United States and Canada. In July 2016, two months after the birth of their daughter Jad, he took his chance first, leaving his wife behind with their two children.

The journey was strewn with obstacles, particularly in the United States, then led by Trump who threatened to send migrants back to their country. But the father finally managed to file an asylum application in Canada.

Meanwhile, Pascale and her two young children left Venezuela, where the situation had become untenable, to settle in Brazil with her mother-in-law.

In Montreal, her husband began working in the food sector. The plan was for Pascale, Rayan and little Jad to come join him as quickly as possible. But the mother was afraid.


Pascale Louis Jeune, mother of Rayan Dieudonné

With Rayan and Jad who was still very little – she was a year and a half – I said to myself: “Am I going to make it?”

Pascale Louis Young

Her husband tried to reassure her. “Other people will travel with you. »

This is how one day in July 2018, Pascale and her two children, returning to Venezuela, took what migrants call “the road”.

“I went through quite a few countries to get here. We traveled some paths on foot, others by boat… We traveled mainly at night. »

For all luggage, the mother had a backpack on her shoulder. To carry her daughter Jad, she followed the advice of African migrants who showed her the art of carrying her as a kangaroo.

The hardest part was undoubtedly the Darién jungle, between Colombia and Panama, which migrants must face on foot, crossing dense tropical forest and swamps.

We were going back into the forest. We could hear all kinds of animals, all kinds of cries. You had to try to walk quickly.

Pascale Louis Young

Rayan remembers the sound of snakes. “I heard tsss… It was weird for me, but it didn’t scare me… Because I didn’t know what a snake was! “, he said with a hint of a smile.

The child walked with confidence, without ever complaining, his mother said. It was he who consoled her in moments of discouragement.

“Sometimes, when the road was difficult, I cried. And Rayan said to me: “No, manmi, you shouldn’t cry. We’re going to find grandpa.” »

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