When Benoit Rochon organized his first event for Wikipedia, he didn’t anticipate the arrival of one unwelcome guest. Rochon had organized a Wikimedia Commons photo event on August 28th of 2011 in order to illustrate Wikipedia articles about Montreal. However, it was on this same day that Hurricane Irene hit Montreal.
“Irene,” Rochon laughed, “I’ll remember that name all my life.” Despite the onset of the hurricane, 110 tenacious participants of the anticipated 300 arrived. “People were running in the rain, in the hurricane by car, some by walk, and just to pick up pictures.” Rochon said. “People are courageous, honestly, they were crazy. [M]ost of them never edited [Wikipedia before] and they just show up and a hurricane was there.”
The event resulted in 5700 uploads to the French Wikipedia. And, while Hurricane Irene may have threatened to destroy his event, it did not quash his enthusiasm. In many ways, the event was a success for Rochon, who hopes to expose Wikipedia to more Quebecers.
Rochon explained that he wants “to make French-Canadians shine on the French Wikipedia, because French Wikipedia is for France, or Switzerland, Belgium, and French-Canadians are a little bit forgotten in there. I want French-Canadians [to be] more known.”
“[French Canadians] speak traditional French,” he said. “And we represent 23 percent of the population in Canada.” But, despite representing nearly a quarter of Canada’s population, Rochon said, “[we] are forgotten, a little bit.”
And yet for Rochon, the beauty of Wikipedia is its unique ability to transcend the barriers presented by language.“I feel like I’m doing something great on Wikipedia,” he said. “It’s free to read, it’s free to write, and it’s the world’s knowledge in one website in 250 languages. I mean, tell me another website who is like Wikipedia and this is what people should care about?”
Profile by Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern
Interview by Victor Grigas, Visual Storyteller