Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Summer weekend in Old Quebec...and 'sovereignty'

Introducing my American wife to the province, city and "Old Towne" Quebec, this past weekend, was similar to taking a young person for a first visit to a foreign country. Her perceptions, responses, questions and wonder at the topography, culture, cuisine, international neighbourliness, emotional and creative energy and the gestalt of these realities combined, were worth the drive and more.
Quality musicians performing on the boardwalk in front of the Chateau Frontenac, tourists by the thousands patiently engaged in the mini-mime theatrical productions, buggies pulled by horses escorting visitors up and down precipitous roads that will be covered in ice and unpassable in a winter's ice storm, chanteurs and chanteuses singing melodically in many of the street-side cafes, while their guests ordered, adored and ate their 'francaise' presentations, combining both exquisite artistry and nurturing repasts, all of this mingling with the summer heat wave, about which we heard not a single complaint, and the open shoppes, offering a melange of everything from $12,000 hand-carved rocking chairs, to $15 scarves, souvenir hats and t's, and original handcrafted jewellery, cold water and ice cream and yogurt....
A feast for the eyes, the ears, the palate and the memory!
And then at breakfast with two young women, one a journalist on exchange with Radio Canada from Belgium, the other from Toulouse, France just completing her master's program in "aboriginal tourism" by studying the subject from a Quebec historical cultural perspective, we learned about how the European leaders were "dismally managing the current debt/deficit crisis" on that continent, in the view of these young minds, because they were "not helping the people" but only the people in power, or the 1%.
We learned too about the perception from the young people with whom these women had spoken, of the desire for independence of Quebec, confirmed by the proprietor of the B and B in which we stayed, that Quebec independence is going to occur, not immediately but within a decade. And that the rest of Canada has very little influence in that regard, that events are already moving, inexorably, in that direction.
And, for a Canadian "patriot" of many decades, married to an American woman who has recently become a Canadian citizen (holding dual passports), I was saddened, dismayed and discouraged.
Here is this vibrant society pulsing with both history and hospitality, artistic, imaginative, literate and compelling, within the national borders of my homeland, yet having grown weary of its treatment by Canada, and knowing that most Canadians do not care anymore about what Quebec does, so...
the road has been made more straight, level and unimpeded for the movement to sovereignty...as they define the word.
From A Fair Country, by John Ralston Saul, p. 4:
...we struggle endlessly with the concept of sovereignty. Why ? Because the concept we are searching for is not part of the Western tradition. What we are after is an indigenous idea with which we have centuries of experience The Mohawk call it 'tewatutowie'. It is all about being able both to help yourself and to look at yourself: "Sovereignty is harmony achieved through balanced relationships." This is very different from the England-U.S. English meaning or the France French meaning. In the European tradition, sovereignty is built around all sorts of rigid legalistic implications defining borders and the application of laws....
This is one way of understanding the continuing frustration over the place of Quebec in Canada--frustration both from within Quebec and in the rest of Canada. It comes from our confused sense of concepts such as sovereignty. We feel it to mean one thing but intellectually oblige ourselves to explain it to mean another. We may feel or sense differently because of the long-term Aboriginal influence.
In this little corner of the universe, this small voice will be still calling out for both Canada and Quebec to keep talking as long as I have breath, without having to resort either to arms or divorce, in order to accommodate our significant differences, making us one of the most diverse, and energetic experiments in human development, as a national circle, that welcome differences, entertains heated arguments, and strives to continue to talk, because the journey IS the destination, not arriving somewhere else.

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