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Quebec Referendum Forty Years Later

Rene

Video RCI

Today, May 20, 2020, marks the fortieth anniversary of the first referendum in the Canadian province of Quebec. I recall casting my vote on that day at the school across from our home. It was, much like today, a beautiful sunny spring day.

… were those who wanted to begin the process of establishing an independent Quebec, outside of the Canadian federation, and would vote Oui

The details of the vote have been well documented so I will not bore you with minutia. Suffice to say the two sides of the issue were those who wanted to begin the process of establishing an independent Quebec, outside of the Canadian federation, and would vote Oui; and federalists who wanted things to remain as they were, and would, therefore, vote Non.

The question itself generated much debate as it was nothing if not convoluted. The lengthy question and results are below. It was a decisive 60-40 victory for the Federalist side.

The Oui side, led by then Quebec Premier René Lévesque was devastated by the margin of defeat. Many of them gathered in an east-end arena for what they hoped would be a victory party. Sadly there were many tears, but none of joy. The room was smoky and hot, emotions were running high. Forty percent of voters’ dream had been quashed, at least for the time being.

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While I never agreed with his sovereigntist position, I was a great admirer of Lévesque. His command of the English language was better than most mother-tongue English speakers. He had been a much-respected war correspondent prior to entering politics.

On the night of the referendum, when he made his way across the stage to the microphone to address an impassioned group of Oui voters who had just learned of their loss, he could have, with the wrong words, ignited a volatile situation.

But he controlled a very volatile situation by reassuring those present that this was not the end of their dream. Just a delay. That’s responsible leadership at its best

But instead, Lévesque, all five and a half feet in stature, stood tall at the microphone and said Si j’ai bien compris, vous êtes en train de me dire: à la prochaine fois. (My dear friends, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying: ‘until next time.)

A lesser man would have worked up the emotional crowd and sent them off to do God only knows what. But he controlled a very volatile situation by reassuring those present that this was not the end of their dream. Just a delay. That’s responsible leadership at its best.

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COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Health, Montreal, News, Opinion, Teaching

COVID-19 Schools and Winter Tires

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GlobalTV

The government of Quebec has announced that it will reopen Montreal pre-schools and elementary schools on May 19. At the same time, they are still reporting daily statistics of the effects (i.e. cases, deaths, and hospitalizations) of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Education Minister has stated that there are still two or three weeks to come up with a final plan for the reopening. The mayor of Montreal is calling for people to wear masks when out. Montreal is, sadly. the epicentre of Canada’s COVID-19 ordeal.

It is no less safe to drive with summer tires during a snowfall on March 23 than on February sixth. Some things just can’t be tied to the calendar

I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between this calendar-driven decision to open schools and the annual winter tire season. In Quebec, it is mandatory to have winter tires on your vehicle, regardless of weather conditions, from December 1 to March 15.

You might think that there is a proviso such that if winter conditions exist outside of the snow tire season, it would be illegal to drive without snow tires. It is no less safe to drive with summer tires during a snowfall on March 23 than on February sixth. Some things just can’t be tied to the calendar.

Yet without being able to show a significant reduction in the threat of COVID-19 the government has decreed that May 19 is the day. Secondary school through University has been scrapped until September, but the younger kids are to return for a month.

Teachers, administrators, and school bus drivers of these children are stunned at the decision. From getting the kids to school on buses to figuring out lunches and classroom space – all while expecting rambunctious youngsters to observe proper physical distancing – this concept is a recipe for disaster.

SCHOOLS-BACK

Montreal Gazette

The recall has been deemed optional for parents and students; but not so for teachers. Clearly what the government wants these teachers to do is act as babysitters so parents can drop off their kids and return to work, thereby prodding the economy back to life.

So why not just say so? Why not come clean and say we need people to keep an eye on these little ones so their parents can return to work and will no longer have to make do with a laptop on the dining room table?

It seems to me that if a government still calls for physical distancing to reduce the potential spread of the virus, it’s too early to allow schools, businesses, and houses of worship to return to normal

More importantly, does this decision put teachers (and custodians, and administrators, and cafeteria staff) in danger? Although young children don’t appear to have been hit by the virus, can they carry it?

I’m all in favour of a booming economy, but at what cost? It seems to me that if a government still calls for physical distancing to reduce the potential spread of the virus, it’s too early to allow schools, businesses, and houses of worship to return to normal.

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Odd Quebec Election Campaign Slogan

PLQ_Poster

The Quebec Liberal Party finds itself trailing in early election campaign polls. While other parties try to tap into the Liberal’s traditional Anglophone support, I suspect these attempts will fail. Yet I find the English version of the party’s slogan, “To make life easier for Quebecers” somewhat odd.

By all means make things better, stronger, healthier, wealthier, for Quebecers. But we really don’t require things to be easy.

I get the gist of it. Perhaps it’s just the translation from the French “Pour facilter la vie des Québécois” but the idea of making things easier sounds to me as if the party considers Quebecers to be a bunch of lazy simpletons who can’t handle difficult things.

By all means make things better, stronger, healthier, wealthier, for Quebecers. But we really don’t require things to be easy.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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In Montreal It’s Bonjour-Hi

Hi

You might think that a city that can and does function in two languages would be a benefit. Particularly when that city is located less than 100 miles from the United States. Montreal is just such a city, offering tourists a real taste of a French-speaking city with the comfort of being understood in English.

Just about perfect you might say. Who could possibly find fault with the concept of store clerks, wait staff, cab drivers and just plain folks greeting one another with Bonjour-Hi? This little couplet has become an unofficial motto for Montreal, one that some see as a welcoming means of determining in which language to continue the discourse, while others deem it an irritant.

The opposition Parti-Québécois wants to pass a motion declaring the use of Bonjour-Hi an irritant. This party would like to see English usage in Montreal eradicated. Instead of embracing the bilingual nature of the city, they push their heads into the sand and refuse to see the positive side of the coin. When it comes to the language debate, Quebec politics turns zoo-like in a hurry.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

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Quebec Law Banning Face Covering Passed

Aislin62

Allow me to express my opinion now that the legislature of my province has passed a controversial law. Known as Bill 62, it bans the wearing of face covers when providing or receiving any public service. This means that here in Quebec, should you be on your way to a protest march you must remove that very popular Anonymous mask while on the bus or metro.

This means that here in Quebec, should you be on your way to a protest march you must remove that Anonymous mask while on the bus or metro.

That’s the simple part of the law. Where it becomes contentious is when niqab and burqa wearers enter the equation. Muslim women are required to wear some form head covering. The most common garment here is the hijab, a headscarf that does not cover the face. Niqabs and burqas cover the entire face of the wearer and then some.

While I disagree with the whole concept of making women cover their faces in principle, the enforcement of the law will make things worse. When I was young bus drivers not only drove the bus, they also sold tickets and made change. This not only interfered with their concentration while driving but made them easy targets for robbers.

Headware

Now it seems bus drivers will have to act as ‘scarf police’, telling niqab and burqa-wearing women that they cannot ride the bus unless they remove their face covering. I have not heard the drivers’ union reaction yet, but I can’t imagine they will be in favour of this new task.

… but I fear more for the Muslim women who may meet up with a driver who has no problem at all and takes advantage of the situation to enforce his or her bias.

Exam invigilators at colleges and universities, if public, will also be required to ask that face coverings be removed if the person is to be allowed to write the exam. I agree with this fully as it eliminates the possibility of having someone else write the exam, say someone who is much better at physics that the actual student.

It seems to me that the potential for conflict far outweighs the usefulness of this law. I feel for the bus drivers who may not be comfortable with their new role, but I fear more for the Muslim women who may meet up with a driver who has no problem at all and takes advantage of the situation to enforce his or her bias.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Cocker Spaniel’s take on Pit Bull Ban

Quebec has introduced a law that would see ‘dangerous’ dogs banned.

“In addition to strictly regulating dangerous dogs … (the bill) allows the government to ban, by decree, certain breeds,” said Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux. “The government is intent on banning pit bull type dogs.”

No wonder they are a bit cranky.

I have been privileged to interview a Pit bull regarding this law. Today I received the statement below from him; he told me a Cocker spaniel had sent it to him. Clearly the spaniel is an admirer of Martin Niemöller.

First they came for the Pit bulls, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Pit bull.

Then they came for the Boxers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Boxer.

Then they came for the Doberman pinschers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Doberman pinscher.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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#TBT Montreal’s taverns; relics of the past

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do

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Those words were made famous in the late 1960s by Beatles protégé Mary Hopkin, in fact the popular recorded version was produced by Paul McCartney. But for many Montrealers something just didn’t ring true with the song. The city was full of taverns, that wasn’t the problem, but they were beer halls that were off-limits to women. So having a woman sing about fun in a tavern was a wee bit odd to some.

At one time Montreal had many neighborhood taverns like the one pictured at right (the photos in this post come from the Montreal City Archives).  Perhaps not as many as the ubiquitous English pub, found all over the UK, but enough that they play a significant role in the city’s heritage. I’m not referring to large, downtown establishments, but local watering holes. Taverns were for men only, they only served beer, either draft or bottled. Some had simple but usually tasty (and always unhealthy) food, but many only offered  peanuts, chips and, of course, the traditional pickled eggs. They opened early, often around eight o’clock in the morning and, by law, had to close at midnight.

There were no bars in taverns, just chairs and tables. No entertainment, just a television. Imitation wood paneling was de rigueur in Montreal taverns. The chairs and tables were basic but comfortable and required a simple setting of an ashtray and a salt shaker for the pickled eggs, or to revive the head on your draft.  Taverns with air conditioning usually cranked it up to the maximum, but many used only floor fans to keep patrons cool. A single television, basic home-style, not a giant screen projection get-up,  was suspended on a bracket and used primarily for sports events.
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The beer served was local bottled or draft. As I’ve mentioned before, don’t confuse “draft” with “on-tap”. You can now have the finest beers in the world on-tap, as opposed to bottled. For instance, Guinness on-tap comes in kegs and is pulled fresh around the globe. Guinness in bottles and cans is a different animal. But the draft beer served in Montreal taverns was a special, some would say inferior,  product brewed by the main breweries and served ice-cold from taps. It was available in pitchers, steins or glasses. The glasses were ordered at least two at a time as they probably only held six or eight ounces. In my opinion these were the best way to drink draft beer.  The cash register in photo on the left shows a sale of 45 cents has been rung up. These photos were taken on July 15, 1963, significantly before I started drinking beer, draft or otherwise, but I’d guess the 45 cent sale was 9 glasses of draft at a nickel each.

Taverns were places where men could meet to have a few glasses and solve the problems of the world, or sit in peaceful solitude enjoying some cold ones while lost in thought. Many taverns were owned by Montreal Canadiens  players and therefore afforded an opportunity to talk hockey with a pro. Next to the beer, the atmosphere was the draw. Similar to the British pub, people frequented their local tavern, or maybe one close to their workplace, where they felt at home. Waiters seemed to stay working at the same place for years and would greet you by name or if you were new they’d refer to you as Boss or Chief or some other moniker.

It wasn’t all beer and skittles mind you;  occasionally a patron would over-indulge in the cheap beer and become rowdy. Fights often broke out over one thing or another. Card games and even arm-wrestling were not allowed in an attempt to keep a lid on well oiled, overly competitive drinkers.
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The Montreal tavern was pushed aside in the 1970s by establishments known as Brasseries (the French word for brewery, but also used to refer to a “fine” drinking establishment). These newfangled places were heavy on glass and chrome, served beer and wine, could stay open until 1:00 am,  and were open to both men and women.

Sadly both taverns and brasseries soon were things of the past as people moved out of the inner city neighborhoods in favor of the suburbs. The local tavern didn’t fit into that environment.

I guess I’m caught up in my subject because before posting I keep hitting the “draft” button, but no beer arrives…

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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From Montreal: Dear Fort McMurray

Dear Fort McMurray,

There can be no denying that Alberta and Québec have had our differences over the years. Be it sports rivalries – NHL and CFL – or disagreements on pipelines and threats of freezing in the dark. But these seem trivial in light of your current plight.

There can be no denying that Alberta and Québec have had our differences over the years… But these seem trivial in light of your current plight.

All eyes in Canada and far beyond are focused on the incredible devastating fires that have engulfed your city. Yet I believe no HD television can accurately portray an iota of the fear, panic and sadness you must have experienced. Keep in mind that thoughts in multiple languages and prayers reflecting numerous religious traditions are with you during this terrible time. Your heartbreaking evacuation and the subsequent loss of your city have been anxiously followed and deeply felt across the country.

Although I have not had the pleasure of visiting your city, one need only watch the numerous interviews with evacuees to understand the strong sense of ‘home’ that Fort McMurray instills in its residents. Time and time again those who have been forced to leave state unequivocally that once conditions allow they are going home to start again.

Until then Godspeed, and rest assured you are not alone because today we are all Fort McMurray!

And that day will come. Not soon enough for those who have been directly touched by the fires, but eventually. I have no doubt that in the not too distant future the same news channels that are broadcasting horrific images of the fires will be covering the newly rebuilt Fort McMurray.

Until then Godspeed, and rest assured you are not alone because today we are all Fort McMurray!

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Flashing School Buses: Stay Stopped

I live on a street with a well-attended grade school. Every weekday morning from about 7:45 to 8:15 there is a flurry of activity as parents park on the street to drop-off children and several school buses of various size disgorge their precious cargo. For a short time each morning, and then again at about 2:30 in the afternoon, an otherwise quiet street becomes more like LAX on a Sunday.

For a short time each morning, and then again at about 2:30 in the afternoon, an otherwise quiet street becomes more like LAX on a Sunday.

There are kids running all over, saying goodbye to parents and dashing off to be with friends. Cars and buses come and go, in addition to the usual flow of traffic as folks make their way to work. Throw in a few delivery trucks and all out mayhem is on the menu.

Section 460 of the Québec Highway Safety Code clearly states that a vehicle passing a stopped school bus with flashing lights and side stop sign out must stop at least five meters (about 16 feet) from the bus. This is the case for cars approaching from the front or from the back. The vehicle must remain stopped until the flashing lights on the bus are turned off and the stop sign retracted.

They stopped, I would like to think they looked, and went on. A clear violation of the Highway Code, and a plain dumb move.

Today I noticed something that could have resulted in a very ugly if not tragic outcome. A driver, having dropped off his or her passengers, pulled out from the sidewalk and found a red-light-flashing-stop-sign-extended school bus. As required the car came to a full and complete stop. Fine and dandy. But then the driver proceeded to pass the still flashing school bus. Defeating entirely the concept of school bus safety. It was as if the driver considered the school bus to be a regular stop sign. They stopped, I would like to think they looked, and went on. A clear violation of the Highway Code, and a plain dumb move.

I have a hunch that if the driver of the car were to be asked about the situation, they would claim to have obeyed the stop sign on the bus. Do folks not understand that you have to stay stopped? (Furthermore even if there is a dividing median, if the school bus stops at an intersection traffic in all directions must come to – and stay at – a stop.)

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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March Still a Lion in Montreal

Let’s hope this is Old Man Winter’s last kick at the can!

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DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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