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Legendary loggers of a by-gone era – an online documentary from 1962 (#338)

This documentary is quite a time-capsule of a by-gone era, that of Québec’s legendary former loggers.

It is a lifestyle which no longer exists.  These days, logging camps are far and few between (modern loggers can “drive to work” from home), and logging methods are much different (there are no longer log-runs on rivers or lakes).

In Québec, there are many traditional stories, songs, poems and legends about this former life-style, which lasted from the 1700s until the mid-20th century.  That is why this documentary is quite special.  It is the last window we have into this former life-style.  Had television / film been invented even 15 years later, we may have missed the opportunity to have had a documentary like this (which is why I believe it is so special).

The documentary was made in 1962 by the National Film Board of Canada.

It is set in the Haute Mauricie region of Québec.   It is a region which remains sparsely populated.  The town of La Tuque is the only community of any notable size in the region.

H.Mcie2

Above:  Haute-Mauricie on a map

Below:  The town of La Tuque

La Tuque d'aujourd'hui

You can watch the documentary online, via the National Film Board’s website, by CLICKING BELOW

H.Mcie.film.3

Some things in the film which stand out for me :

  • The men in the film are from all regions of Québec.  They congregated in the camps in search of work.  Thus, you can hear various different French accents in the film (from Gaspé, Lac St-Jean, Côte Nord, and La Beace regions).   These accents stand out because the documentary was from a time when regional accents continued to be much more prevalent than a standardized Québec accent.
  • On that same topic (of a standardized accent), in 1962 Québec had not yet achieved a point of speaking wth today’s standardized accent.  Thus, up until the early 1960’s, Québec’s television announcers and documentary narrators spoke with a very “European” intonation.  This documentary is a very good example of what I mean.  Narrators today would have a more noticeable “Québec” characteristic to their accent than this “faux European” accent with which the narrator speaks.  I spoke about this phenomenon in an early post on accents.  You can read it by clicking HERE.
  • The film makes me thing of today’s modern oil & gas camps in the West and North.  Especially the fact that the camps are filled from people from all parts of the country (much like these old logging camps were filled with people from all parts of Québec).

I translated the first part of the documentary, so that you can understand the generally meaning of what is being said.  Here is the translation (after my translation, the scenes in the documentary speak for themselves):

0:51 – Travailleur / Worker :  On dit que le thermomètre est à 23, 24 sur la route.   Plus que ça, 27.  Aïe, que c’est fort!   T’ends un peu là.  Entre 25 et 30.  Entre 25 et 30.  Comme la semaine passée.

Worker :  You’d think the thermometre is -23 or -24 on the road.  More than that, -27.  Wow, that hits hard!  Wait a sec.  Between -25 and -30.  Between -25 and -30, like last week.

2:42 – Sur la carte, un désert.  Une forêt à faucher, une forêt vierge continue qui couvrirait sept fois la France.  À vol d’oiseau, Trois-Rivières n’est qu’à 120 miles au sud, Montréal et Québec à 150.

On a map, it’s a desert.  A forest to fell, a continuous virgin forest seven times the size of France.  As the crow flies, Trois-Rivières is 120 miles to the south, Montréal and Québec City are 150 miles.

2:50 – Pourtant, avant d’atteindre la première route marquée sur la carte, il faut parcourir 140 miles de chemins privés, ou prendre le train. 

Yet, before arriving to the first marked road on the map, you have to work your way through 140 miles of private roads, or take the train.

3:02 – Pour moissonner épinettes et sapins, ce matin comme les autres matins de la semaine, 165 scies de cultivateurs ont quitté leurs baraquements à 06h45. 

To harvest spruce and fir trees, this morning like all the other mornings of the week, 165 harvesting saws live their camp barracks at 6:45am.

3:28 – Deux par deux, quatre par quatre, les Breton, Le Guen, Kérisoré et Naffe, venus de vieux pays du Morbihan et Finistère (des régions en Breton en France)… Et le cuisinier Émile, et l’assistant cuisinier Lucien dit Beau-Sourire, Alphonse Lacasse, Candide Malenfant, Julien Gagnon, Marcel Piché, Henri Frenette, Jean-Charles Charon, Guy Charon, Flavien Charon, Normand Lafontaine, Henri-Paul Labonté – tous venus de vieilles paroisses aux sols maigres et revêches…

Two-by-two, four-by-four, the (Family names) Bretons, Le Guen, Kérisoré, Naffe, from the old country of Morbihan and Finistère (regions of Breton in France), and Émile the cook, Lucien the assistant cook who is nicknamed Cute-Smile, Alphonse Lacasse, Candide Malenfant, Julien Gagnon, Marcel Piché, Henri Frenette, Jean-Charles Charon, Guy Charon, Flavien Charon, Normand Lafontaine, Henri-Paul Labonté – all have comme from parishes with poor and unproductive soil…

4:00 – … Des Laurentides à la Gaspésie, de la Beauce au Lac St-Jean, pour accomplir des travaux exemplaires. 

From the Laurentians to Gaspé, from the Beauce region to Lac St-Jean, they have come to do what could be held up as a model of work.

5:36 – Dallaire, il est canadien français.  Il ne parle pas anglais.  Il ignore Cuba et le marché commun, le Congo et l’Algérie.  Il coupe le bois pour six dollars la corde à neuf miles du camp. 

Dallaire is French Canadian.  He doesn’t speak English.  He knows nothing of Cuba or the free market, nor the Congo nor Algeria.  He cuts wood for six dollars a cord, nine miles from camp.

6:06 – Son ami A.S. Pérot (?) dépique les arbres et empile la pitoune de quatre pieds.  Une chorde, quatre pieds de large, 8 pieds de longue, quatre pieds de haut, cent billots et six dollars à partager entre deux. 

His friend A.S.(?) Pérot takes the branches off the trees and piles the pitoune (a 4 x 8 ft cord or wood). A cord, 4 feet wide, 8 feet long, 4 feet high, 100 blocks and six dollars to share between the two of them.

7:30 – Travailleur / worker :  Il y a des moyens l’bois ça vend.

There are ways to sell the wood.

7:37 – La Rochelle et son ami sont aussi entrepreneurs.  3,55$ par corde transporté sur une distance de six miles.  2,35$ pour le camion, 60 sous pour chacun.  Quatre cordes par voyage.  Et, avec de la chance, six voyages par jour.

La Rochelle (family name) and his friend are also entrepreneurs.  They receive $3.55 per cord which is transported at a distance of six miles.  $2.35 for the truck, 60 cents each.  For cords per trip, and with any luck, six trips per day.

8:01 – C’était le 1e février.  Le dernier voyage en bateau sur la (rivière) Manouane en aval du barrage.  En amont, sur la glace du lac Chateauvert, des tracteurs à chenille remorquaient des trainouches rangés de bois.

It was February 1st.  The last trip by boat on the Manouane River downstream from the dam.  Downstream on the ice of Lake Chateauver, tank-track tractors which were pulling chain-trains full of wood.

En aval, dans l’eau courante, 35 camions jetaient 52,000 cordes de bois à la rivière, de quoi alimenter en papier en 18 mois le quotidien la Presse, et pendant les deux mois le New York Times. 

Downstream, in flowing water, 35 trucks were dumping 52,000 cords of wood into the river, serving to supply 18 months worth of paper to the daily La Presse newspaper, and two months worth for the New York Times.

Flotterons ainsi sur la Manouane, puis sur la St-Maurice, et rejoindrons les deux millions d’arbres coupés pas huit mille bûcherons. 

Let’s sail down the Manouane, and then to the St-Maurice river to meet up with 2 million felled trees by 8000 loggers.

Les 125 million de billes de quatre pieds qui chaque année voguent vers La Tuque, Grande Mère, Shawinigan, et Trois-Rivières pour produire autant de papier que l’en exporte toute la Scandanavie.

The 125 bundles of 4 foot logs, which each year sail down to (the towns of) La Tuque, Grande Mère, Shawinigan, and Trois-rivières to produce as much paper as what Scandanavia exports.

8:58 – Vingt-deux indiens de la tribu des Têtes de bulls travaillent ici pendant quinze jours.  Ils vivent sous la tente.  Albert Connolly est leur chef et son jeune fils l’aide à empiler un bois dont la coupe est peu rentable car il est petit. 

22 indians from the Bulls Head tribe work here for 15 days.  They live in tents.  Albert Connolly is their Chief, and his young son helps him to pile wood which has little value because it is too small.

9:43 – Trente-cinq camions, soixante-cinq chevaux, huit tracteurs à chenille, 165 hommes pendant neuf mois, 22 indiens pendant 20 jours, et six ans de labeur pour jeter dans la rivière quarante miles carrés de forêt.

Thirty five trucks, sixty five horses, eight tank-track tractors, 165 men during 9 month, 22 indians during 20 days, and six years of (combined) labour to dump 40 square miles of forest into the river.

11:47 – Travailleur / worker :  En hiver dans l’bois on va manger de bonne viande.  À part d’t’ (de) ça un couple de bières tranquillement pas vite.  La première fois que j’étais en chantier de l’hiver de bois je me demandais qu’est-ce que je fais.  Je vais me prendre une assiettée de bines, pis un bon petit bone steak, pis je va leur montrer aux bines comment je mange ça un steak!

Travailleur / worker (in a very heavy accent which I think is from North-East of Baie Commeau, further East along the North Coast region of Québec, if I’m not mistaken) :  In the woods in the winter, we’s be eatin’ good meat, along with a couple beers which we down nice ‘n slow.  The first time I was in the winter camp, I wondered how the heck I’d I find my way.  I just took a plate of (pork and) beans, and a ‘lil chunk of T-bone, and I showed ‘em all (my co-workers) how to down a steak!  (Laughs).

Once my translation stops…

In the documentary, they later they talk about how the aboriginals workers came to eat in the camp once, how they live in their own camps outside with their families.  The narrator says they continue to eat food they hunt.

At 21:20 they show workers who have been injured and are left to their own misery because they have no medical insurance (and no means to purchase medicine).  Basically, you were screwed if you fell ill.

Later they talk about what different men plan to do during the summer for work once the camp closes.  The camp only operates in the winter (when the ground is frozen and it is easier to work).  Many men will be without work if they cannot pre-arrange summer jobs.

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Kevin Parent: One of Québec’s music institutions (#318)

Tonight was the last night of Toronto’s two-week long Franco-Fête (Toronto’s version of Montréal’s Francofolies).

Some interesting statistics regarding this year’s Franco-Fête in Toronto

The numbers have been released to the public today, and they’re quite something…

– More than 100 French-music concerts took place during this year’s Franco-fête in Toronto’s Dundas Square (Canada’s equivalent of Times Square in New York).

– More than 350 artists took part.

– Between 700,000 and 1,000,000 (yes, one million) people attended the French-language concerts in Toronto at one point or another during the two weeks.

– A phenomenal success in helping to break down the Two Solitudes.

Huge numbers !! Huge success !! and almost no hiccups !! (Hey Toronto & event organizers, you did well!  Amazing job!).


Kevin Parent has been one of the top singers in Québec and for Francophones across Canada for the past 20 years (yet has doesn’t look to have aged one bit).

For most people, when they think back to their high school, college or university days, there are always one or two singers who stick out the most vividly in their minds (those groups who incarnate memories which flood back when you hear their music).

For me, I view Kevin Parent in this category from back In the 90’s (along with others like Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n Roses, and so on).

Kevin Parent became huge — REALLY REALLY HUGE around 1995 (actually a little bit earlier).  But unlike one-hit wonders, Parent’s star appeal never faded.

He is as big in 2015 as he was in 1995.   I would dare say he continues to be so large that he has become a one-man cultural institution for Montréwood’s, Québec’s and Francophone Canada’s music industry.

Kevin 1

Over the years, he has won 7 of the top ADISQ (Félix) awards — the Québec equivalent of the Grammy’s and Juno’s.  Speaking of Juno’s, he has also won one of those as well.

He is one of a handful of life-long Québec music superstars — and tonight I was lucky enough to take in one of his concerts

  • with a front-row spot,
  • shake his hand after, and
  • chat with him for a few moments.

Below is a video collage I filmed with clips from some of his best known hits, as well as a small introduction (am finally getting the hang of this video thing — makes life way more easy).

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One of Québec’s and Canada’s key players for tearing down the Two Solitudes:  

I personally consider Kevin Parent to be one of Canada’s BEST BRIDGES between the Two Solitudes. 

He is not Francophone.  He is Anglophone.

Yet, he is one of Québec’s best known French-language singers.  (He rarely sings in English, and all of his hits are in French).

He grew up in a community with a large Anglophone population in the far-Eastern Gaspésie region of Québec (along the New Brunswick border).

Yet, in the hearts and minds of everyone in Québec, it doesn’t matter that he is Anglophone or Francophone.  He is accepted simply one of their own – period.

He is one of the strongest symbols we have for what can be achieved when people seek to break down the Two Solitudes.

I have always been fully aware of this fact.   Music aside, for this fact alone, he is someone who I have admired and respected for over 20 years.  He has done more to bridge the Two Solitudes and to make Anglo-Franco dynamics a “non-issue” than perhaps anyone else in the past 50 years or more.  I truly believe he is not given enough credit on this front (but then again, perhaps it is a good thing that he has never been politicized).

Regardless, I believe it has had an impact.   Cultural soft-power sometimes speaks louder and can be much more powerful than political power.

He is adored by fans in Québec from their early teens into their fifties — a fan base spanning two to three generations.

Some funny photos:

As much as I wanted to see his concert, I also wanted to meet him in person tonight to shake his hand, and to thank him.   I was able to, but the pictures did not turn out very well.

In fact… they were a complete photo fail !   But the FUNNY side of the fail more than makes up for the fact that I couldn’t capture the right moment on film!

Check this out:

Photo 1:   Just as I was about to start chatting with him, some lady started screaming uncontrollably that she loves him and that he is his hero.  It gets both his and my attention.  She was freaking out and I started to laugh (Kevin looked over to see what all the commotion was about).

Photo 2:  She practically shoved me out of the way and completely takes Kevin by surprise.

Photo 3:  I start pissing my pants laughing, and Kevin is like “What the !!!”   Afterwards, once she left, we both shook our heads and laughed about it!

Oh well…  The resulting photo and look on his face perhaps is better than anything which could have been captured had the photo actually gone as planned !!

Kevin 2

Some of Kevin Parent’s top songs:

  • Seigneur
  • Mother of Our Child (French)
  • Les doigts
  • Maudite Jalousi
  • Father On The Go (French)
  • La Critique (this on especially brings back camp-fire memories with friends back in Alberta).

The following parody has gone down in Parody history in Québec (everyone knows this one).  It was a brilliant and hilarious trap which saw Marc Labrèche catch Kevin Parent off guard when he, well, had Kevin meet Kevin.  (I wrote a post about Marc Lebrèche almost a year ago… you can read it by CLICKING HERE).   Hahaha 🙂

Various cultural rankings — Introduction (#301)

Rankopedia is a site which asks net-surfers, net-users or netties (knows as internautes in Canadian French) to rank and vote on anything and everything.   Topics range from sports, to products & services to arts & entertainment, and many others.

It’s basically a polling site which collates people’s thoughts on what they like, and in which order.

Such a polling method is not scientific, but it offers insight nonetheless.

For the heck of it, I extracted some Québec-related topics.

The next few posts will look at rankings of:

  1. Voter’s favorite NHL hockey players from Québec (I finally found a way to do a post on hockey!!  A blog on Québec without some mention of hockey simply would not be a blog on Québec)
  2. Voter’s favorite Junior Hockey Teams from Québec – presumably ranked by Québécois themselves (A second post on hockey – Score!!)
  3. Voter’s favorite regions of Québec
  4. Voter’s favorite Francophone celebrities from Québec
  5. Voter’s favorite Anglophone celebrities from Québec.

I’ll try to supplement the above rankings with a bit of my own insight for you.

See you soon!

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SERIES:  WEB-USERS’ VARIOUS QUÉBEC CULTURAL RANKINGS (11 POSTS)

You are going to know a lot more about Québec after this series of posts

Conditioning: From the 1980 referendum until present (#282)

This posts continues where the last one left of.  I’m the previous posts, I spoke at length about the failure of the Estates General, and the beginning of the political fallout which could possibly have been avoided had the Estates General not been sabotaged in the name of politcal agendas.

The fallout has since affected our collective psyche, and our political expectations and preconceptions.  In other words, it has affected our societal conditioning.  But that conditioning too may vary depending on our vantage point.

For the rest of this post to make sense, the previous posts might be worth a read.   I say this because I am presenting events from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.  It is a version which is not taught in Québec, and which Anglophones rarely learn about.  It places extra weight on the failure of the the “Estates-General of French Canada” (Les États généraux du Canada français” as being one of the root causes for other constitutional events snowballing over the past 40 years.  It’s a very poignant and powerful version of our recent history, and thus I believe it is beneficial to also view things from this vantage point.

The “Second Night of Long Knives” and the fall-out from it:

Québec voted “no” in the 1980 referendum.  Soon after, Trudeau sought to repatriate the constitution and to enshrine language rights within the constitution.   It was Trudeau’s attempt (after prior attempts, including the 1971 Victoria Charter) to bring about further changes in the wake of (1) the failed Estates-General, (2) of the 1970s nationalist movement in Québec, and (3) the failed 1980 referendum.

Trudeau was faced with an arduous task involving a good deal of sour politics and going back-and-forth between the various premiers and the courts.

In 1981, and after much wrangling, most Premiers were still not on board with Trudeau’s version of the repatriated constitution.  They formed a blockade against it in an alliance which included René Levesque (the then Parti Québécois Premier of Québec).  But on the night of November 4th, 1981, a number of premiers agreed to push through and sign the accord as a majority, while René Levesque was sleeping.

History provides us with different views of what happened.  One version says that the Premiers believed their signatures were not final and the constitution would still be open for discussion (that it was a pro forma signature, rather than a prima facie finalized signature).   Yet another version of history says that Levesque was under the understanding that all the premiers believed a signature would be final.

I am not in a position to make a judgement – because I, and all the rest of us, will never know what was truly going on in everyone’s head.

But regardless, in the eyes of all the premiers, they believed Canada’s public was tired of constant constitutional and linguistic-cultural stalemates.  It had been 14 years following what would have been a watershed moment of progress had the Estates-General succeeded in bringing concrete proposals to the constitutional table with a strong, united Francophone population backing it.

Had the Estates-General succeeded, and considering the population and geographic weight it would have brought to the table (from Francophones from B.C. to Québec to Newfoundland), it could very well have been difficult for Anglophone Canada to refuse constitutional proposals stemming from the Estates-General.  What is more, those constitutional proposals would have likely been much wider, more meaningful, and more profound than anything Trudeau was proposing.

Owing to how the Estates-General collapsed, I cannot help but wonder if some of the Premiers who signed the Constitution without Levesque at the table did so with a sentiment of “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.  After all, Québec’s majority delegates at the Estates-General 14 years earlier sabotaged any hope that the Estates General could have led to a constitutional proposition acceptable to all Francophones, and endorsable by all provinces and the Federal government.

Likewise, on November 4, 1981, a majority of Canada’s premiers signed the constitution without René Levesque’s government’s consent.   I suppose it could be considered tit-for-tat.   But again, we will ever know for sure if that is how the premiers viewed it when deciding if it was ethical or not to sign the constitution without René Levesque.

This is why I call the signing of the constitution the Second Night of the Long Knives (and not the First which I reserve for the 1967 failure of the Estates-General).

Regardless, I firmly believe that two wrongs do not make a right.   I am also a strong advocate for the principle of letting bygones be bygones and of having a “reset button” sitting on the desk at all times.

What I find fascinating is that since constitutional repatriation in the early 1980s, the sovereignist movement has touted it as one of the primary reasons for separation from Canada.    The logic is that Québec’s government, under Levesque, never agreed to live in a country with Trudeau’s version of the constitution, and thus Québec should opt out of the country.

As an example, Québec’s Option National party leader, Sol Zanetti continuously and trumps this card to the world…  you can see one of his English-version “broadcasts to the world” here (I, like many others in Quebec and elsewhere around Canada, just shake my head)…

Oh, I think he forgot to mention that someone in Halifax wore a colour he didn’t like… so there’s yet another reason for sovereignty.

Regardless… he’s simply spewing crap (it’s my blog, so I can say that).  His take on things obviously aren’t reflective of reality — and proof is in the polls:  The last time I looked I think the Option Nationale had 0.9% or 1.2% of overall popular support… at any rate, something like that.  Not enough to warrant me wasting my time to look up the exact number.

And one more thing – especially to everyone in Canada who resides outside of Québec, or is Federalist (regardless if you are Anglophone or Francophone):  When he’s talking about “they“, “they” and “they”… He is talking about “you“, “you“, and “you” — which also includes “me” too.   That just shows you the absurdity of what he is preaching.

Are you or your friends, or peers, or family – or even most of your compatriots around you double-crossing, heartless, will cheat-ya kind of bastards?  I’m assuming you’re not.  And, you know what?  Neither am I.

The Two Solitudes exist… but that does not mean everyone is the Wicked Witch of the East, West, North, South, or whatever other place Sol can dream up.  All of our people are actually pretty cool — Francophones and Anglophones alike .

Thus, me thinks that Mr. Zanitti needs to take a chill pill… Especially if he frets over events which might have well happened during the ice age!  I’m mean, really?  Did he actually invoke a battle in the 1700s with cynicism to mark political points?  Seriously?  (Oh, big big sigh — Reset button… push the reset button Mr. Zanetti!).

Some additional remarks regarding conditioning and Mr. Zanetti’s video:  You can see that Mr. Zanetti’s conditioningand the historical context upon which that conditioning is based is very different than mine – and perhaps equally as different from yours.  His conditioning could stem from as diverse a range of factors as those who he has been surrounded by when growing up, the education he received, how he was taught to interpret history, his travels and where he has lived, and all the emotions which arise from these factors.

I am not in any way diminishing the validy of Mr. Zanetti’s emotions.  Everyone has reasons why they harbour their emotions.  But emotions often take the “objectivity” out of a situation.

This video is a prime example of how conditioning can prompt one to take action.  But as you have also seen from the last few posts, there is more than one way to look at an issue (these issues) and how to resolve these issues.

Therefore conditioning can become quite dangerous when it blinds people from existing alternatives and closes ones views to other possibilities, realities, and other people’s experiences.

In a sense, Mr. Zanetti’s video it reminds me of two friends, one Anglophone, one Francophone, who are each living in minority environments.   I used their cases as examples in post #277 as examples of negative conditioning.  In each of their cases, they believed they were being mistreated by the other linguistic group – and thus it tainted their view of other people in those linguistic groups… Whereas in reality I could see that only a few unfortunate, isolated incidents tainted their views of the remaining 98% of all the other good which was going on around them.  Negative conditioning led them to look for the bad along linguistic lines, rather than the good.

Despite Canada having been chugging along and slowing but surely finding its way to improve socio-linguistic inequalities, I find it very interesting how nobody in the sovereignist movement wishes to talk about Québec’s delegates roles in the First Night of the Long Knives in 1969, and how that quite possibly snow-balled into the Second Night of the Long Knives, and events throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

The subject is not even taught in Québec school curriculums, and barely touched upon at university – at least not from this angle (rather, it is taught as a matter of triumph and not betrayal… but triumph over who and what?  Other Francophones and Francophiles elsewhere in Canada, like myself?  Strange – truly, very strange).

I truly don’t talk about these subjects very much with people know.  But I can tell you that the few times I have talked about the Estates General, and how it’s needless collapse affected all events which came afterwards (considering an alternative future could have otherwise played itself out), it has left more than a few of my friends in Québec in a bit of a state of surprise.  It sometimes gets an “OMG” moment of realization, but most of the time just surprised silence (especially when I ask the above questions of those who I know who are soft-sovereignists).

As you can see, this is why I strongly advocate for a “reset” on all of these issues.  When everyone chills, people see that the matters at hand are (1) not insurmountable, and (2) are not so bad (actually, I think they’re pretty good).

Moving on…

The Mulroney intiatives, the 1995 referendum, and the period to the present

By way of the Charlottetown and Meech Lake Accords, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sought to seek agreement for a re-written version of the constitution acceptable to all the provinces and the people of Canada.  He could not reach agreement, neither by way of provincial quorum nor by a referendum on the matter.

The failure of Mulroney’s efforts brought Canada to the brink of self-destruction (we have since learned that Saskatchewan’s Premier’s office and core cabinet members were even presented with the idea of joining the United States if Québec were to leave following the 1995 referendum… which perhaps would have had a spin-off effect with new countries created across the continent from the ashes of what once would have been Canada.  With such a large land mass as Canada with so many different regions, it truly was uncharted territory).   The failure of Meech and Charlottetown caused support for sovereignty to skyrocket.  The 1995 referendum results were 50.58% no and 49.42% yes.

Since the second referendum of 1995 (largely brought about by Mulroney’s failed attempt to seek consensus on a constitutional modification), support for sovereignty has declined.   Since 1995, it has rarely left the 33-39% range (give or take a couple of percent).

But those in the sovereignist movement took away three major lessons:

  1. Provoking a constitutional crisis can cause pro-sovereignty sentiments to spike,
  2. People are fearful of their economic future and are reluctant to risk that future, and
  3. Immigrant sentiments are key to any referendum outcomes.

Since 1995,

  1. we have seen the Parti Québécois (PQ) try to poke at things here and there to provoke a constitutional crisis (without success… precisely because successive Federal governments have not been willing to poke back after the lessons learned in the early 1990s),
  2. we have seen the PQ try to persuade Québec’s population that a sovereign Québec would be economically more viable as an independent state (hence why the billionaire businessman Pierre Karl Péladeau was chosen as the PQ’s latest leader), and
  3. we have seen the PQ try funny things on the immigration and integration front (hence why we see schizophrenic and finicky actions such as trying to woo immigrants, spend money on immigrants, blame immigrants, and fence-in immigrant issues with mechanisms such as the Charte des valeurs).

Despite all these efforts on the part of the PQ (and the Bloc Québécois, Québec Solidaire and Option Québec), support for sovereignty has rarely left the 32% to 39% spectrum.  There are many factors why this may be the case.  Yes, economic stability for an aging population may be a reason.  Youth who view politics in a more global rather than local sense may be another.

But I also tend to think that another factor is that people have become desensitized to the emotional impact of events of the 1970s, 80, and 90s.  In addition, overall good governance of Canada (relatively speaking when viewed in a global or Western context) as well as massive social changes in Canada since 1995 (not related to Constitutional affairs, but rather to individual sentiments) have played just as much, if not more of a role in a decrease of support for sovereignty.

This is not to say that support for sovereignty in Québec may not once again find its foothold.  I am watching with great interest what will come of the latest chapter involving the PQ’s new leader, Pierre Karl Péladeau.   Is he the ideology’s new magic ticket?  Or will he turn out to be the one carrying the shovel which will bury the issue even deeper into the ground? (perhaps once and for all).

But back to the national front

When all is said and done, the last 20 years have proven that we do not need constant constitutional amendments as a prerequisite for constant societal evolution in Canada.  That’s not to say the matter will be closed indefinitely.  It’s just to say that so far the past 25 years have demonstrsted that reopening the constitution is not of prime importance for the country to continue to evolve in the right direction.

When interpreting the constitution, the courts have shown that they are apt to interpret it in new, modern, and dynamic ways… turning a static document into a living one.    And for the most part, our societal evolution since 1995 (both for Francophone and Anglophone societies) have moved along in the same direction; not in opposite directions.   They are becoming more and more similar as time moves forward.   

In a twist of irony, despite there having been no constitutional amendments since its repatriation, Francophone and Anglophone societies in Canada have become more and more similar in the past 20 years than during any other time in our shared history.  (That may ultimately be the real killer of the sovereignty movement).

I’m of the belief that this has diminished the risks of a constitutional crisis.   That is not to say that some day there may not be another one.  But if the Federal government keeps its nose clean, and if the PQ’s attempts to provoke a constitution crisis can be tactfully brushed off, then things should go well and society should continue to positively evolve (socially, culturally, and socio-linguistically).

That does not mean that Anglophone Canada should cease being proactive.   On the contrary, evidence to date shows that many aspects of Anglophone society continue to be proactive (the subject of numerous past posts).  But people on both sides of the linguistic divide need to remain empathetic to each other, and share in each other’s culture to enrich our overall Canadian experience and nationhood.  After all, we continue to evolve as a country.

It is this type of societal conditioning for which I advocate.

I am not a fan of the type of conditioning from certain aspects of Québec’s ultra-nationalist factions.  There are segments of Québec’s the political, media, and education world which continue to erect walls between Québec and the rest of Canada.  This in turn prevents cross-linguistic empathy and learning.   But these segments are becoming more isolated with time.

Likewise, I am not a fan of the conditioning from certain aspects of Anglophone Canada which are ignorant to many issues pertaining to Francophone Canada, not only in Québec, but also coast to coast.   We often see such ignorance on issues in certain aspects of Anglophone Canada’s own political class, media and education systems.  Again, I believe that these segments too will become more isolated with time.

That, in a nutshell, sums up Canada’s recent history with respect to the Two Solitudes.  And it lays the foundation for aspects of Canada’s modern socio-linguistic conditioning with respect to why the Two Solitudes have been maintained during the past 45 years (at least from my point of view).

The next post will put into context the last few posts, and open the way for us to look at little things which reinfoce conditioning of the Two Solitudes; on a more localized, daily basis.

It makes for an interesting discussion.   See you soon!


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)

Conditioning: What happened after the Estates General? (#281)

In the last post, I discussed the circumstances surrounding the failure and collapse of the Estates-General of French Canada.  Despite its failure, there were still many people across Canada (both Anglophones and Francophones) who believed that progress could be made in the absence of the weight and momentum which would have come from the Estates-General — despite the betrayal and non-participation of Québec’s delegates.

A quick reminder that I am presenting events from the point of view of how Canada’s Francophones outside Québec tend to often view Canada’s recent history.  It is a version which places extra weight on the failure of the the “Estates-General of French Canada” (Les États généraux du Canada français” as being one of the root causes for other constitutional events snowballing over the past 40 years.  It’s a very poignant and powerful version of our recent history, and thus I believe it is beneficial to also view things from this vantage point.

Trudeau’s first attempt at a solution:

The Bi-Bi Commission made four major recommendations to the Federal government (in addition to other recommendations which touched upon various levels of jurisdiction).  There were nuances to each of the recommendations, but notwithstanding the nuances, the four major recommendations were:

  • The creation of bilingual districts in certain areas of Canada,
  • The creation of Francophone education rights in areas of Canada where there were needed,
  • That French and English become official languages of Canada,
  • That Ottawa be declared bilingual.

Prior to the collapse of the Estates-General, there were perceived signs of a softening by several provinces towards increasing Francophone and bilingual services.  However, in the wake of the collapse of the Estates-General and the pressure it would have brought to the table, Anglophone provincial governments were no longer so inclined to act of their own (in a sense, they too were “flipped the same bird” that Francophones outside Québec were “flipped” – so hey, what do you expect).

In the early 1970’s, the task was mostly left to the Federal government to take action alone, but their jurisdiction only reached so far (compared to the Federal government, the provinces held jurisdiction over many more matters which touched the daily lives of its citizens and Francophones across Canada).

The new Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, did what he could within his power, but he could only deal with what was within the Federal government’s jurisdiction.   He introduced greater bilingualism within the Federal government, and sought to protect Francophone rights across Canada at a Federal level.

However, with Trudeau having seen what happened with the collapse of the Estates-General, I would not be surprised if he felt as betrayed and as bitter as everyone else across Canada who expected a successful outcome of the Estates-General.   As Prime Minister, Trudeau was now facing difficult choices.

The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (the Bi-Bi Commission) was initially advocating for a bi-cultural country… one in which new immigrants would integrate into Canada’s two linguistic cultures (in some people’s minds, had the Estates-General succeeded, pressure from the outcome of the Bi-Bi Commission could have led to spin-off changes as dramatic as immigrants in places like Saskatchewan having to take English and French lessons, and even being compelled to pass French and English exams to obtain permanent residency or citizenship).

Eventually, it was possible that new segments of Anglophones also would have had to have adjusted to a new bilingual and bi-cultural reality (over a break-in period of a couple of decades or course).  One area being discussed was perhaps having to achieve a certain level of French prior to gaining a university diploma, or to be granted certain professional licenses.  Anglophone companies may have been required to have a core number of bilingual employees in order to secure federal incorporation status (Federal incorporation is necessary for any incorporated business which wishes to operate beyond their home province).   All of this would have made Canada a very different country than it is today.   To a major extent, it would have involved provincial governments in a whole new way.

Some of the above views may have been overly optimistic.  But had the Estates-General succeeded, there could have been a concerted, long-term movement in this direction all across Canada.

However, considering that Québec drew a line in the sand out of self-interest, I personally believe it led Pierre Trudeau to become fearful that accentuating that line, possibly by adopting an official policy of bi-culturalism, could increase the possibility for future betrayals – perhaps the kind which could tear the country apart in one fell swoop.

Thus, Trudeau did introduce a culturalism policy… but it was not bi-culturalism.   It was multiculturalism.   One of the people involved in the Bi-Bi Commission, Jaroslav Bohdan Rudnyckyj (of Ukrainian Cultural descent) advocated for multiculturalism.  But I’m inclined to think that perhaps in Trudeau’s mind, multiculturalism served as much a tool to ensure that no single linguistic or cultural group could ever “highjack” the country again, as it did as a nation-building tool for accommodations in a country becoming increasingly diverse.

And the 1970’s roared on:

In the meantime, nationalism in Québec soared during the 1970s.   It was actually quite ironic.   On one hand, war-cries were heard coming from Québec that sovereignty was necessary because Canada was not changing.  But on the other hand, much of what could have changed in Canada was killed by Québec’s own delegates during the Estates-General.  What could have been the most likely engine for change across Canada over the coming 3 to 4 decades was blasted to smithereens by the actions of Québec’s delegates.

As a side note:  Having grown up to a great extent in French in Alberta, I can attest to the fact that to this very day, there are Francophones outside of Québec and across Canada who remain bitter over what they perceive as having been betrayed and stabbed in the back by Québec’s delegates in 1967.   Thus it should come as no surprise that the reasons invoked to support the sovereignty movement in Québec are viewed as pure hypocrisy on the part of many Francophones outside Québec.

The 1970’s nationalist movement in Québec served to build arbitrary mental walls around Québec’s borders.   It created a “them and us” attitude at a time when grassroot movements outside Québec were trying to break beyond that notion.

This wall building exercise would have a conditioning effect on Québec’s people which continues to be felt today.

Trudeau’s job became more and more difficult.  I do not know if he made right or wrong decisions.  I do have thoughts regarding some of his decisions, but I have a difficult time concluding if my opinions are correct or not in light of the situations of the day (Should have Trudeau he chosen a different direction?  Did he go too far with some of his decisions?  Did he not go far enough on the socio-linguist front?  I truly do not know…).

But I am pretty sure Trudeau was between a rock and a hard place.  Either way, any decision he made would have left someone upset or disappointed (sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other).

Despite any errors he made, and despite if I or any others do or do not agree with his actions and decisions, he likely was acting in good faith considering the disappointing and “hand-tying” actions which came out of the Estates-General.   Had the Estates-General advocated as one strong voice for change from sea-to-sea, Trudeau’s job could have been much easier.  With the federal government in his pocket and the support of the Estates-General, it would have given him the ammunition and moral justification needed to go to all of the provinces to say “Fix this! Because I stand behind our people, coast-to-coast”.  But that opportunity was taken away from him in 1967, and from all others across Canada who wanted to fix Canada’s linguistic inequalities in the 1970s.

Instead, Trudeau was left fighting a referendum in 1980, during which ultra-nationalists were asking Québécois to leave Canada because Canada was not changing (do you too see the irony?).

The story does not stop here.  Numerous other events occurred after the 1980 referendum which provide background to today’s societal conditioning.


SERIES:  HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)