Friday, November 5, 2010

The Rise of the Parti Quebecois 1976: The Party's Over

One of my friends from childhood, Terence Bowman has written a blog on the October Crisis from the perspective of a six year old which is quite charming and familiar.   I confess that at that age I had much less political awareness than Terence who was considered as the closest thing to an intellect in our age group.  The only thing I can remember is that my parents were undecided of who to vote for and the Union National kept coming up as a possible alternative to the man with the Buddy Holly glasses.

I remember feeling slightly sorry for Robert Bourassa for having to wear those glasses because my parents forced me to wear the same type.  The only other thing I remember was Pierre Burton having a talk show which looked pretty intense and far too serious for me to be interested.  Hey, put Pierre up against the Flintstones and I am going to choose the prehistoric cartoon every time.

The real shock that waved through our little Anglo conclave happened six years after the October Crisis of 1970.  Up until 1976 with the exception of some minor bumps, our Anglo community was a cut-off little island from French Quebec.  We were the Hong Kong of Quebec.

As Terence had pointed out, we did have a limited French program.  While I recall "Chez Helen", I do remember those televisions in the classroom showing us programs from France.  There was this woman who came on and said these phrases in French.  She would repeat each phrase with a whisper and we would have to repeat it in unison during the "whisper".  Our French lesson were never Quebecois but with Parisian accents. I kept my "Parisian" French until I got out to the workplace and adapted all the crude Quebec "joual".

Anyhow, the separatist Parti-Quebecois came to power in November of 1976.  The great migration of English headed down the 401 to Toronto and never looked back.  Of the dozen or so friends that I had made on our block, only myself and one other family remained.  I was devastated.  I remember asking my father when we were moving but we stayed put.  Eventually life went on and I made other friends.  That was one true political event that affected our social lives and it started the slow process of further integration with the majority French population. 

Toronto natives always look at me incredulous when I fix them with a stare and declare in all seriousness that they should name one of their streets after Rene Levesque for giving them so much wealth, people and power by instigating that migration.  Toronto supplanted Montreal as the largest city something which Montreal has never recovered from.

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