What Canada Means to Me
Christophe Hennebelle, Vice-President, Human Resources and Corporate Affairs, Transat

by Martha Chapman

Christophe Hennebelle

Where were you born? In France, in Lille in the north near the Belgium border. It’s a provincial town, an old industrial city that has come back to life and is now very student-oriented and quite geared to technology.  

When did you come to Canada?  In July 2014. I’m quite new!

Why Canada? I was already working for TS in France and was offered the job in Canada, so in a way I picked Transat before I picked Canada. In France I was head of HR for Transat France, a tour operating subsidiary which has since been sold to TUI.

What were your 1st impressions of Canada? Several things. Obviously, it’s a country where the seasons are very contrasted.  Luckily, I have a lot of experience with winter as my wife is Finnish. I noticed that the way life is easy here and uncomplicated compared to France. I also like the feeling of energy and the multi-culturalism of Montreal, especially from a linguistic perspective. 

What was your 1st job here? I came here as VP Human Resources, and last year had the Corporate Affairs portfolio added. 

Are you a Canadian now? I have just become a permanent resident, and you have to be one for 3 years before you can request citizenship. But my 7-year-old son Toivo already thinks he’s Canadian!

What do you like about Canada? Canadians are more direct and easy. Sometimes in Europe you feel the weight of history, which can be good but also not so good. Do I miss French food? Thankfully no, because Montreal is great for food and I can find anything I dream for. The wine-selling being state controlled I’m not used to, but apart from that I’m very pleased. There are so many good restaurants.

 If you could live anywhere in Canada, where would it be? I honestly don’t know the other cities enough to be able to say whether I’d like them. I know Toronto a little bit and quite like it as well, and I still need to discover Vancouver. But for now, I quite like Montreal, especially based on the housing prices.

What do you think would make Canada an even better place?  It’s a very good place, but perhaps the economy would gain by being less dependent on fossil energy. 

What do you think you’d be doing if you had remained in France? Professionally, still in HR. And this year, wondering if the new French government will succeed in changing the economy a bit.

How will you spend Canada Day? It’s a challenge to get used to a different set of public holidays when you change countries! But I will definitely be with my family, outdoors if possible, perhaps playing tennis. 

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