I am a Quebecer and a Canadian and don’t ask me which one comes first. If you do, you may end up with a black eye because I have no more patience with this type of question. You see, I hate two types of people. I hate the hard-core federalists and I hate the independantists. I hate them because they see my identity as the price for the battle they are fighting against each other. To prove they are right, Quebec must fail for the hard-core federalists and Canada must fail for the independantists. If they achieve their goal in proving this failure, then they can impose a choice on me. They can force me to choose between being a Canadian or a Quebecer. For both of these forces, I can never be both. I can only be one; a Canadian or a Quebecer.
I can tell you this does not help people like me in defining their identity; who they are. I always was a soft-core federalist. This means I always believed in the success of both Canada and Quebec; in a strong Canada and in a strong Quebec where Quebec can exist and function as a distinct society. It should be of no surprise to you therefore that I was a big supporter of the Meech Lake Accord. I can tell you that the failure of this Accord was not easy for me and all the Quebecers like me who believed in the distinct society. For us, this was akin to putting a knife in our backs. It did hurt. But still I remained a soft-core federalist. Still I continued to believe in both Canada and Quebec. Against all odds, I wanted to remain both a Canadian and a Quebecer and this how I continued defining myself until I became for a short time an independantist because this fight got really personal. If you are an Anglophone Canadian who believe in a Canada with a French Quebec, then you should read this carefully because this is what is really happening in this country and it differs quite a bit from what is appearing in the Medias. Canada should be concerned when francophone soft-core federalists are forced and polarized to become independantist.
At the time, I lived in Nova Scotia on a farm in the middle of nowhere. I just love the Maritimes and it’s not just the pull of the oceans. I feel at home there. But I wanted my two boys to know what it was like to live in Quebec and to learn about my original francophone culture; I wanted them to really experience it. So I made the decision to go back for a few years. My wife who is from Nova Scotia and Anglophone was hesitant but she supported me.
This is how I accepted to become the Director of Sales for Manulife and moved to Quebec. Right from the start, there were problems. The Francophones were complaining they were not respected by Manulife because a lot of what they needed was only offered in English. As for the Anglophone Quebecers, they were spoiled getting everything in their language. This is the first myth to address. Anglophones from Quebec are not discriminated against. In five years in Montreal, I never saw such a thing. Anglophones in Montreal are in fact extremely spoiled. Everything that my francophone team did was done both at the same time in French and English. In fact, we spoiled them so much that when an Anglophone would walk into a French meeting, the meeting would switched to English even if there was francophones who did not speak English. At one point I made this joke: “What happen when an Anglophone walks into a Francophone bar. The Francophones who don’t speak English leave and the rest of the Francophones start speaking English.”
It is not easy to offer the same services in both languages. Contrary to my counterparts in other provinces, I had to do everything in double. When I tried to get some support from Manulife Head Office in Ontario demanding that this be reflected in my budget and staff because I was incurring additional work, my request was refused. I remembered saying to the Ontario folks, if you are budgeting for me to do everything in one language only, does this mean I start doing everything in French in Quebec (forget about the anglophones in Quebec)? They did not think it was funny. It gives you an idea of where this is going; certainly not a love story between me and the folks in Ontario.
But still my team and I persevered and we still did everything in Quebec in both languages while Manulife did most of everything in one language in Canada. But then a bunch of folks at Manulife Head Office such as Brian Woolley, Lester Heldsinger and its president Paul Rooney came up with a great plan. They would centralize everything in Ontario by adopting a Pan-Canadian structure where all of the provincial operations would be the same and where the support would be delivered from Ontario. Sounded great until you realize this meant getting rid of all the regional support staff and replacing them by Head Office staff who did not speak French. So my team went from 10 people to 3 people. Who was going to provide the French support?
One day Bob Gloin of Manulife was in my office and upset I asked since no one was speaking French at Head Office and they had gotten rid of all the francophone support in Quebec, who was going to provide the support. He looked at me and said, “your team.” He does not know it but on that day I almost jumped across my desk to kick his ass but I did not do it because I had a family to provide to. This is the only thing I regret in this whole affair. I should have kicked his ass or someone’s ass anyway.
So here was the plan, us the white niggers; three Francophones were going to do the job of 10 while in Ontario, the Head Office was going to pretend everything was the same everywhere and that they were doing a great job in providing their support nationally while in fact providing their support to all of the provinces except Quebec. Well this is when I had to make a stand. Even worst, I had reviewed how Manulife wanted me to operate and their operations were going to break Quebec law and there was no way I was going to break the law. A lot of laws in Quebec are distinct from the rest of Canada and this is even truer for the Law pertaining to the distribution financial product; law that was regulating my activities.
So then started the legal side of the battle, and I hired some lawyers and the lawyers told me there was little I could do. Yes you hear me correctly. Canadians can ask a Quebecer to break Quebec law and it was all legal because the Charter of Rights does not recognize Francophones or their language. We are non-entities for the Charter. Manulife lawyers answered that everything they were doing including breaking the law in Quebec was the intended consequences of their Pan-Canadian reorganization. I have to say this, this was bloody arrogant. This is how the hard-core federalist works. But let’s not forget Quebec; a society that still claims it is distinct but can’t stand up for these differences. Yes, Quebec was also guilty because when I asked the Quebec government to protect me and enforce the law, I only got silence. I was on my own.
Finally the fight got the better of me. I was forced into a choice that was not right. As a Quebecer I should have been able to work in Quebec as part of Canada without having to break Quebec laws. My health was declining. I always been a problem solver and I could not solve this problem. Stress and depression were destroying me and I was a wreck. In one moment of rebellion I asked my wife if this would have happened if Quebec was independent. Some Canadians felt they could ignore the laws of one province but could they ignore the laws of a nation? In answering this question, this is how I became an independantist. So I made the choice to be a Quebecer before being a Canadian because of my respect of the law and I lost my job.
I had to remove myself from this environment by coming back to the Maritimes and to regain my perspective and identity. This new perspective is pretty simple. I was the victim here and nobody had the right to force me to choose between being a Canadian and being a Quebecer. I had the right to refuse to make this choice. This is my birthright and my identity and I will fight anyone who wants to take that away from me. So today I am both and proud to be a Canadian and a Quebecer. I am not proud of Canada who has been taken over by the hard-core federalists who try to ignore that Quebec is a distinct society that must be respected. Now everything that Quebec does differently is shown as evil by the Medias.
When Harper tried to impose Nadon as a judge in the Supreme Court in spite of the law showing total disrespect of the Constitution and of the Civil Code of Quebec, did he need to do this? No. Did Harper know he would lose? Yes, because while I hate Harper, I still can recognize he is brilliant and extremely manipulative. Harper can only maintain his right wing agenda my maintaining the distinct vote of Quebec and separating it from Ontario. This allows the West to control Ontario which is really the price and the gate to power in Canada. To do this Harper only has to push the buttons of soft-core Quebecers. If Quebecers are forced to choose between Canada and Quebec, they are put in a defensive posture which forces them to vote distinctively than the rest of Canada. This explains Quebec voting in the last few years, first for the Bloc (the vote for the Bloc was never about independence and this is the Bloc will not be able to elect one deputy to the parliament next year) and then for the NDP.
Yes it is a sad story but nonetheless a true story…