One of the few journalists to have truly bridged Canada’s linguist divide is Chantal Hébert.
Owing to the media platforms in which she currently or has regularly appeared, she is well known to both Anglophones and Francophone.
Although Hébert is known to most Anglophones and Francophones in Canada (if you watch the news, you know her), I am nonetheless writing a post on her for one reason alone: I strongly recommend you follow her in both languages.
After having followed her for many years, one thing I can tell you is that she regularly provides points of views to Francophones of what is happening and being “felt” in various regions and nuances of English Canada (she highlights to Francophones in Québec that English Canada is very diverse, with many regional ways of life and cultures). Likewise, she regularly provides the same sort of insight to Anglophones of what is happening in Québec.
It is fascinating to watch and listen to Hébert in both French and English. Only through following her in both languages do you get a full appreciation of her understanding of national & local issues. It’s quite intriguing, really. We don’t hear other people capture an audience’s attention in quite the same way as Hébert is able to.
Her own background of growing up and living between two provinces (Ontario and Québec) gives her this duality which is so rare in Canada’s journalistic spheres.
- was born in Ottawa (Ontario)
- did her schooling until Junior High in Gatineau (Québec)
- did her Junior & Senior high in Ontario (Toronto)
- did her university (in French) in Toronto, Ontario.
- started as a journalist at the Ottawa Citizen
- was a journalist covering Ontario’s parliament at age 20
- became a journalist for the Toronto Star in Toronto
- became a journalist for various media outlets in Montréal
And the rest is history.
We have either regularly seen or read her in the past, or in the present on
- Radio-Canada (Les Coulisses du pouvoir)
- CBC (The National)
- The Toronto Star
- Le Devoir (past)
- The Ottawa Citizen (past)
- CBC – various platforms
- Radio-Canada – radio & various platforms
With this year being the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Referendum, and with the recent passing of Jacques Parizeau, Chantal Hébert (and Jean Lapierre) interview key players of the referendum. They sought to find out the backroom story of what was really happening before those players passed away.
The book is named“The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was (in French, Confessions post-référendaires: Les acteurs politiques de 1995 et le scénario d’un oui).
It has become a treasure chest of information the country never knew about, or never thought of what could happen (a trajectory which could have been extremely different from anything which could happen in Scotland’s or Barcelona’s case — a factoid PKP / Snyder would be very reluctant to discuss. After all, if Canada were to disintegrate, dislodging its entire economy, infrastructure, cultural foundations, legacy, position in the world, the world’s confidence in Canada, Canada’s confidence in itself, and not to mention every last bolt of the federation — Québec and every part of Canada could be thrown into a developing nation status (the Argentina of the North). There wouldn’t be much left to negotiate with, now would there? (not only for Québec to negotiate with, but for other provinces to negotiate with either).
And once you throw into the equation that there are millions of people within Québec as well as across Canada who have a daily interest (from an emotional point of view) in the well-being of the country, the situation would become even more dire.
I bought the French version of the book days after it came out late last year. Fascinating reading. I’m sure it has made many people think very hard about the consequences of any referendum exercise. We learned there was much more at stake than simply Québec’s future – as the entire country could have disintegrated into various new countries (with certain parts of the country even running the risk of becoming absorbed into a union with the United States). The book squarely placed all the stakes right under our noses — at a height many did may not have believed could have been possible.
I’ll provide you with several pertinent YouTube videos in French and English (with a brief description above each one).
But before I do, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I’m not sure if I should mention this or not, but without going into the details, I’m going to tell you something about the type of journalist Hébert is. I wrote to her a while back about on a certain topic — without any intention of hearing back from her. But within five minutes, she sent a response with a thank-you note. In today’s busy world, one in which journalists are torn in all directions, I think that says a lot about her character and integrity. She genuinely cares about her readers and the welfare of those for whom she writes her stories.
Bravo Chantal! Keep on telling it like it is! 🙂
FRENCH – An excellent interview with Chantal Hébert with “Carte de visite” on Ontario’s French-language public broadcaster TFO. She goes into details of her life, offers her insights, and basically gives a biographical synopsis of herself – from the beginning until now.
(Note: the interviewer, Gisèle Quinville, is one of Ontario’s best known television Francophone television personalities – but she is not very well known in Québec. If you’re wondering, her accent is what I would consider to be Ontario’s “standardised” French accents).
FRENCH – Hébert explaining to Francophones her and Lapierre’s astonishing discoveries when they investigated what was happening behind the scenes during the run-up to the 1995 referendum.
(Note: The program she is appearing on is Tout le monde on parle. This program is Québec’s and Canada’s #1 or #2 rated television program – regularly vying for the top spot with La Voix on TVA. Both programs have often been known to amass view audiences of over 2 million per episode – the largest view audiences in Canada).
ENGLISH – Hébert talking to Paul Wells (of Maclean’s) about their discoveries of the 1995 referendum.
ENGLISH – A magazine report on the CBC’s The National using Hébert’s and Lapierre’s research on the ’95 referendum as the report’s foundation.
FRENCH – An appearance on Tout le monde en parle. In the video, we see how Hébert shocked voters in Qubéec (mostly on the left of the political spectrum) by drawing fascinating parallels between Pauline Marois and Stephen Harper.
This interview made waves in Québec. Armed with Hébert’s sober insight into politics, and considering the size of the audience, I believe (based on knowing just how big of waves this interview did make in Québec) that this may have been a contributing moment in the last Québec electoral campaign which perhaps contributed to the defeat of the last PQ government.
ENGLISH – An academic view of Hébert’s history with the spotlight on her own education and her accomplishments
ENGLISH – A parody of Hébert on This Hour has 22 Minutes (Parodies which English Canada are quite used to seeing).
FOR COMPARISON SAKE (ENGLISH) — Here’s the real deal…
ENGLISH – Another parody which has gone down as a bit of a classic.
Agree. Hebert is unique in that aspect as well as being one of the most perceptive journalists around.