This is the last in our three part Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Lise Payette activist mini blog series.
The last two posts touched on some complex and controversial subjects. However, these topics have played a role in forming Québec’s culture and phyche. It’s difficult to attempt to answer “What is Québec’s culture?” without delving into these types of issues. Because they are complex, and because the nuances can only be picked up through knowing French, it contributes to why certain aspects of Québec are poorly understood by Anglophone Canada (just as Anglophone Canada’s culture is often poorly understand by aspects of Québec’s society).
Let’s now bring together Nadeau-Dubois and Payette, and look at the one-on-one conversation they shared over a meal on the radio program « L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté ». Again, like the two other posts I did using « L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté » as a series summary, I am providing you with a link to the recorded program, and I will only give you a written summary of their conversation.
If you are learning French, I really want to encourage you to continue do your best to continuing to improve your language skills. For Anglophone Canadians, it truly will open a whole world for you – one which is your own country after all. It’s perhaps one of the finer gifts you can give yourself, and it will give you a sense of belonging, wherever you are in Canada (and it will tear down that sense that there is “you over here”, and “them over there”).
Even if your French is not at a very high level, give the audio recording your very best try. Here is the link: http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/lautre_midi_a_la_table_da_cote/2014-2015/.
Click on “audio fil” half way down the page. An audio feed window will then open. If there are parts you cannot understand, you can rewind and listen again until you do get it. Use my summary notes below as a crutch to help you work through it. I’m super proud when I see Anglophone Canadians trying their best to improve their French – something which I regularly see. The fact you’re just reading this and are simply interested in tearing down your country’s Two Solitudes, by way of arming yourself with a sense of understanding and awareness is more than reason enough for you to be proud too.
The summary below will be a little bit different than the wrap-up summaries in prior related posts. Nadeau-Dubois says certain things regarding sovereignty which I do not agree with and which I feel quite strongly about. There will be parts of the summary below where I am going to annotate with my own thoughts on why I do not agree with him. A soft sovereignist friend suggested I perhaps could be a bit more “forceful” in my own convictions on sovereignty vs. unity (he’s a pretty open guy, and I’m a pretty open guy too – and making one stances known isn’t a bad thing when speaking with other open-minded people about the topic). I’ve always been a bit hesitant to being too “direct”, simply because I don’t want it to tint the main purpose of the blog, which is simply to bridge the Two Solitudes (regardless of one’s own politics). But I guess I’ve written a number of other posts in a way that its kind of obvious where I stand on the unity front. So, OK… For this post, why not just say my stand on the whole issue? Here we go…
Summary of the recording:
- Payette: She says her mother raised her in the Montréal borough of St-Henrie. Unlike most other mothers in the 1930s, she only had 2 children instead of 6 to 8. Payette feels this was a good thing because it helped the family fight off the poverty others in their neighbourhood were struggling with (in that era, poverty was a daily fight for so many families).
- Nadeau-Dubois: his parents were both militants, his father was a syndicaliste (union leader), Left wing, and both parents were independentistes (sovereignists).
- Nadeau-Dubois: He first attended May Day celebrations (for world labour solidarity) when he was just 5 or 6 years old. It was the first time he saw a group of 100 people wearing cagoules (balaclavas) while beating drums. His father explained to him that the people were anarchists. This made a big impression on him, and he finds it interesting that 15 years later he was marching with the same type of people.
- Payette : She said her grand-mother brought her into politics. Her family wasn’t religious when she was young, which was strange for the era. This gave her a political freedom people which other families didn’t have.
- Payette : Her first job in radio allowed her to meet numerous personalities. One such person who she met happened to regularly perform in front of large crowds on stage. He once told Payette “When I’m on stage in front of crowds, if I wanted to, I could make the crowds run out into the streets, and it could easily get violent.” Payette said this statement left her with a rather deep impression. It was a scary thought for her because it made her aware of the danger which comes with the power of being an influential figure. Payette lightly nudged Nadeau-Dubois to be careful and to remain aware of this. Nadeau-Dubois responded by saying that he understands her counsel. He says he understands it because he did incite people to protest in the streets through the delivery of fiery speeches. However, he realized later that if he had given the same speeches in a different time and place, the situation could have become quite violent.
- Payette said she wants a “recall” law which will allow the electorate to fire a government while they are in their executing their elected mandate. She wants such a measure to be able to be used if the population becomes unhappy with the government. She says this ties into her vision of sovereignty. Her argument is that when people vote today, they too often are voting for a preferred personality rather than on substance. Only after they vote do they find out that they do not like the substance of the politician. She believes this is a way to fix the problem of cynicism towards politics.
- Nadeau-Dubois says one thing that hit him in 2012, during his protests, was that ordinary people were telling him to go home and stop making so much noise and to stop creating disturbances. He was surprised that the people telling him this were not meeting him on an idealogical basis when telling him to go home.
My personal comment related to the above: Take from that what you will… my interpretation of what this signifies is different from his. I believe that if people were not willing to engage him in an ideological debate, it means they did not agree with his ideology, and it should perhaps have been Nadeau-Dubois who should have been more respectful rather that the other way around.
- Nadeau-Dubois says he believes Québécois are not willing to become more militant like him, and are not willing to take up his causes because he feels they have it in their heads that the province’s population is not big enough to take up causes which may cause divisions within society
My personal comment related to the above: I find Nadeau–Dubois’ comment condescending, and bordering on insulting. It’s almost as if the notion or reality could not occur to him that there are people – a majority in fact, based on two referendums and poll-after-poll – who actually care for, and have a vested interest in the health, advancement and strength of Canada (not just a majority in Québec, but elsewhere in Canada too). I mentioned in earlier blog posts that Anglophones can be amazingly cool, and Francophones can be amazingly cool. There are many of us, in Québec and across Canada, who enjoy living together and building something together, as compatriots. The reasons both referendums failed in the past is because there “is” a majority which is concerned with splitting up the country, and who would not feel whole – culturally, as a nation, or as individuals – without one another. This is quite unique on the world stage, and it is very special.
Canada is not dysfunctional or abnormal, as many sovereignists do argue (their words, not mine). Rather, for Federalists, it is sovereignty which can be argued as dysfunctional and abnormal, in the sense that Sovereignists proclaim sovereignty is the right option, whereas the majority does not agree. (On that note, I’m not a big fan of the word “Federalist”… simply because in many people’s mind, it has a legal association related to the signature of the 1982 constitution defining the legal framework of the “Federation”. That’s a whole other kettle of fish, and that’s not what I’m talking about when I say “Federalist” When I use the word “Federalist”, I simply mean someone who is pro-Canadian Unity… and the “legal” stuff can be hashed out in a different context).
Most people across the country (including Québec) do not want to give Canada up or allow others to take it away from them. Most people want to seek and work for the continued evolution of Canada through collaboration. Canada is not what it was 100, 40, or even 15 years ago.
For Federalists, why sovereignty seems like a dysfunctional and abnormal option is because it feels like someone is telling you the brother or sister you have always lived with (even when there was tension in an earlier era) is someone you should try to not like, and you should turn your back on them and learn to dislike them because there are differences in personalities. Most people, when faced by that type of discourse, would simply tell that person to kiss off! Family is family.
When I’m told that Québec’s relationship with Canada should be severed so Québec can normalize its economics and policy decisions, that argument also doesn’t hold weight with me. What is normal? If a majority of the population accepts it, or wishes for its continued evolution, improvement, and reform within Canada, then it already “is” normal. Getting into specific economic or policy arguments, frankly speaking, is just a waste of time for both Federalists and Sovereignists. Why? Because anyone can twist numbers or policies in their favour (A Federalist can make it sound like 4+4 = 9, and so can a Sovereignist). So what boils down to is what do you harbour as feelings, emotions, and sentiments. You either feel attached to Canada, or you do not. If you do not, fine – that’s OK, and Federalists should respect that. But if there are people who are attached to Canada, then as a Sovereignist – you too should respect that, live with it, and also move on… just as you would want, and ask for Federalists to respect Sovereignist’s sentiments, especially if Sovereignists were the majority – am I not right? It should not be a one-way street when I hear that Federalists should respect Sovereignist sentiments right now, then thus move on if they lose a referendum, but that Sovereignists should not accept Federalist sentiments right now, nor simply move on if they lose a referendum (and continue to lose a majority of the public’s support and sentiment). How does that make sense?? Think about it. The old adage is “if you can’t beat them, join them” (at least that’s what Sovereignists often tell Federalists they should do if a majority wants and votes for Sovereignty). But if the reality is the other way around (as it is right now), why does that not hold true in the opposite sense? Actually… I don’t advocate that Sovereignist should drop their convictions and “join” Federalists. I think both sides should respect each other’s sentiments. But I do advocate “acceptance”, which means accepting and “moving on” if public opinion is not on your side (regardless if you’re Federalist or Sovereignist – and at this moment, and quite possibly for a long long time – if not indefinately- public sentiment is towards a united Canada, both in Québec and in every other province).
But hey, Gabriel Nadeau–Dubois is entitled to his opinion. His exposure and experiences in the Canadian context are very different than mine and many others (which is why most people in Québec seemingly did not, nor do not agree with a good deal of his actions). But I figure that’s ok – everyone can lead their life how they want. It’s a free country. I suppose for Federalists like myself, the idea of respecting and having strong sentiments and emotions “for” Québec, its people and other people across Canada goes hand-in-hand with what we represent as a country. These values are not out of sync with some of Québec’s most profound values. It’s about caring for people, sharing our wealth, our accomplishments, creating something we can be proud of, encouraging others to pursue a better life, and to give society the tools and opportunities so people can also help themselves make life a little better. We share those values, in Québec, and across the country – and people are given the opportunity to live anywhere they want in this country in pursuit of those goals. End of my commentary.
- Nadeau-Dubois says he is always having to consult his entourage to help him make decisions. Payette says that’s a healthy thing, and doing the same thing has always been important for her too.
- Nadeau-Dubois says he didn’t know what to do when he was awarded the Governor General’s award. Payette said if it was her, her initial reaction would have been to reject it. Payette said she was very surprised to see what happened when Dubois accepted it. She was surprised he donated the money to another cause of his liking, one linked to Québec independence. Both he and Payette agreed that receiving the Governor General’s award money wasn’t such a bad thing after all, and served their cause well (commentary supplement: through garnishing media attention in the form of a media event, as well as providing money to a cause of their approval. As I stated two posts ago, after receiving the money, Nadeau-Dubois was given a platform on “Tout le monde en parle”, where Nadeau-Dubois began a telethon of sorts to increase the dollar value of the fund).
- Both said that they felt it was too bad that people frown upon those who disagree with others (Commentary: I can only guess they’re talking about mud-slinging politics. To Nadeau-Dubois’ credit, I’ve listened to him criticize ideas and other people’s actions from A to Z, sometimes quite forcefully – but, with the exception of some of the most heated moments of the 2012 protests, he generally does not launch “personal”.. so on this point, I agree with him).
- Nadeau-Dubois says he feels the Quiet Revolution should continue because he feels societal inequalities were dealt with during the Quiet Revolution. Payette responds that it should start with a connection between the old guard (her generation) and younger generations. After forging such connections, she believes the torch should then be left to the younger generations to re-take up the causes of the Quiet Revolution and morph into into a new movement.
- (Commentary: this next paragraph is an interesting point of disagreement between Nadeau-Dubois and Payette): Nadeau-Dubois asks Payette what she thinks of Pierre Karle Péladeau and the likelihood of him becoming the leader of the Parti Québécois. Payette responded she believes PKP can incite Québec’s business spheres to take up the sovereignist cause (which, for the most part, they never have before). She said, because PKP knows Québec’s business community very well, it would be interesting to see if he can convince the business world not to choose sovereignty because of the Parti Québécois, but rather to simply vote yes in one referendum, and then vote for whatever party they want (left, right, centre) after a referendum succeeds. She feels PKP would also be a good negotiator against the might of Ottawa should a referendum succeed. She doesn’t know if having PKP as the head of the Parti Québecois will bring about these results, but she said it would be interesting to find out. Nadeau-Dubois rebutts what Payette (Comment : For Anglophone readers who do not speak French or who do not follow the sovereignty debate in Québec, you may find the following insightful because it will allow you to see that there can be quite different views within the sovereignty movement itself). Nadeau-Dubois said he’s very worried by the idea of PKP becoming the Parti Québécois leader because of his refusal to resolve his apparent conflict of interest. PKP should not be allowed to be both the owner of the Québecor media empire and a politician at the same time. He said he believes politics are not like business – that politics call for a different kind of compromise and self-restraint. He said PKP’s background as someone who goes on the offensive until he achieves what he gets will cause more problems than what it will solve. He believes PKP was too anti-worker, too anti-unions, and too far to the right in his business relations.
- Payette retorts that if there will be another referendum, regardless of which way it will go, it will be the last one (Nadeau-Dubois agreed), and thus, regardless of how PKP may have managed his businesses, if he can get results in a referendum, everyone should stand behind him. Payette says she believes PKP would rapidly introduction a referendum, and everyone in the Parti Québécois should set aside their differences to make it a reality.
- Nadeau-Dubois said, as a person, he’s calm on the outside by nature, but that’s a good thing because it naturally tempers strong emotions he harbours on the inside.
- Nadeau-Dubois said one of the motivating factors for his social & political engagement was having seen a new-immigrant child living in poverty. He said his life-engagements have since been as an anti-poverty activist.
This 3-post mini blog series, for me personally, was one of the more interesting ones I wrote. As you saw, I through both hands into the dough in a political sense, and in this post I opened up about some of my own convictions on the unity vs. sovereignty front – more than I have in other posts. Like I said earlier, one friend in Québec (someone who is a “Soft” Sovereignist)
gave me a hard kick in the butt for hesitating to be a bit more direct on my own thoughts on sovereignty encouraged me not long ago to not be afraid to be more upfront, in my blog from time-to-time, with respect to my own convictions. He’s of the same mindset as me that if you’re open about your thoughts, and those listening are also open people – dialogue can still be a great thing for mutual understanding and respect (even if views don’t change — but, hey, sometimes they do too). So with my commentaries above, there you now have how I view the sovereignty debate.
But I’m not going to keeping focusing on this particular political matter… Rather, the posts will continue to be based on what I think will be of interest to bridging the Two Solitudes (with the odd political-related post inserted here-and-there 😉 ).
I hope you found these last three posts insightful. 🙂
I mentioned above that it will be interesting to see where Nadeau-Dubois pops up next. Well, he just appeared… and you’re not going to guess where. Read the post GND Does it Again.
MINI “EAVESDROPPING” SERIES