Independence And Interdepedence

Le Tour de l’Îsle

Our Camino Frances began in Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port in Basque Country, France. It made me think of my native province of Québec and the aspirations of many Québecois for some form of “independence.” Walking through the beautiful, often unspoiled, countryside in Basque France (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and Spain (Navarre) made me sensitive to some of the legitimate reasons why choosing a different path into the future might make some sense. Globalization in its current form doesn’t. A path that has respect for the old and the traditional ways that were more in tune with Mother Earth would hold a certain attraction.

In 1659 my ancestor, Abel Turcault, sailed from La Rochelle, France, to Québec. I trace my roots to Abel through 10 generations.

Abel was granted a farm on Îsle d’Orléans, an island in the Fleuve St-Laurent near Québec city. The parish church of Sainte-Famille is the oldest parish church in North America still standing. Abel is buried in the yard there, though his grave is, like all the other very old ones, unmarked. The island is 42 miles (quarante-deux miles) in circumference. It is a “little camino” for locals and tourists, who do “le tour de l’île” by bicycle or on foot. I have done two tours de l’île… par automobile.

My ancestor operated a windmill. His mill ground wheat into flour.  When I saw the windmills between Pamplona and Puente la Reina I was reminded that the new has taken over the old. The bread of our new world is electricity.

A canadien songwriter, Félix Leclerc, wrote a song called  Le Tour de l’Îsle for his adopted home. It is very much a love song to the ancient island, which is still very French.

The old Québecois lived in harmony with nature. The ways of the new people of Québec, French or English, are not sustainable.

Félix Leclerc’s song is, I now realize, a song about respect for tradition and interdependence, not simply about independence.

Open Letter To Justin Trudeau: “L’heure est venue, si t’as compris.”

Justin Trudeau writes, in a contribution-soliciting email that I received today:

It’s time to turn the page on seven years of Conservative policies that have left too many Canadians behind. Together, we can build a strong middle class and grow our economy so that everyone can share in Canada’s prosperity.

It is well-known by now that growth as we know it is unsustainable. I hope you will speak honestly with Canadians about this reality when the time (hopefully) comes for you, Tom Mulcair and Elizabeth May to be the next government. You have a powerful team there. I hope change comes before it’s too late.

I’m sure you realize that it is irresponsible to grow our economy at all costs. We need to make this limitation clear to all classes of Canadians and come up with a plan that conserves the things without which life itself is unsustainable: our air, soil water and our interconnected biodiversity – the disrespected, often invisible, things upon which all life depends.

I am very concerned that we will not make it to the next election without Harper having signed secretly-negotiated trade agreements that will limit our ability to protect our environment and our health. Even NAFTA needs to be amended to remove the restrictive parts of its Chapter 11, which give American and Mexican corporations the right to sue Canada for lost future profits if we bring in a law to protect our environment, for example, and that law has a negative impact on their revenues. In one classic NAFTA case in 1997, Canada had determined that a gasoline additive made by Ethyl Corporation was a potential carcinogen. This chemical, MMT, was banned in the United States. It was only used in Canada! Canada removed MMT from our gasoline. Ethyl Corporation was entitled under NAFTA’s Chapter 11 to sue for “future profits” – $251 million dollars. Canada, faced with a very expensive lawsuit that we might lose, settled out of court. Canadian taxpayers paid millions to the American corporation and permitted the additive to be used. This is just one example.

No one in Parliament looks ahead seven generations when making a decision as our native peoples used to do.

By the time the next election rolls around the destructive laws contained in huge un-debatable omnibus bills that attack our native peoples on numerous fronts may be un fait accompli. Our First Nations’ genuine rights to treaty and unceded lands (disrespected by us settlers for centuries) may be our collective last defence against pipelines and the permanent, polluting destruction wreaked by  largely foreign resource extraction corporations, whose “moccasins” have never walked our forests. In fact, corporations, though they don’t even have feet, and are, unlike us humans, immortal, have – and this must change – all the rights of a human being and then some! These powerful, ruinous rights, called “Legal Personality” or “Corporate Personhood,” must be quickly taken away. I hope you, Tom and Elizabeth will make this a priority.

It is a sad reflection on Canadian stewardship when millions of hectares of land, water and trees are surrendered to foreign corporations. The profits from these destructive activities don’t even stay in Canada; they are spirited out by means of transfer pricing, a sinister tool by which corporations avoid paying taxes owed to the country whose resources they are exploiting.

If, by sheer good fortune, the powerful, hugely punitive trade deals like CETA and the TPP agreement have failed to be passed before the 2015 election, I call on you to defend the rights of our native peoples and all Canadians to a clean environment. Please do not subject us to trade agreements that are even more powerfully punitive than NAFTA.

Look around. Smell the tobacco and the sweetgrass.

As Félix Leclerc put it, in an admittedly different, but nonetheless patriotic, musical context:

l’heure est venue, si t’as compris

August 2008 – Québec, “La BelleProvince”

This is an old blog recovered from my old website. From time to time I will post one of these. The photos all need to be uploaded, so I don’t do this often… It records a road trip back to Montréal,  Québec City and Ile d’Orléans. It deals also with my France and Ile d’Orléans roots. I can trace my family tree back to the time of Louis XIII in France.

The church where my ancestor, Abel Turcault, is buried

Ste. Adèle

Mary’s home in Ste. Adèle

We began our August with a road trip to Québec, the province where I was born and raised. Continue reading “August 2008 – Québec, “La BelleProvince””