Quebec’s Glory shown through our Story?
Quebec and diversity are not fully compatible, but is there also a continued historical dissonance?
By Yvonne Sam: Chairman (Rights and Freedoms Committee) At BCRC
The recent outrage and consequent debacle that surrounded the St. Jean Baptiste parade, with singer Annie Villeneuve, on a float being pushed solely by Black males, calls for all concerned to nose dive into history books before sounding the alarm. Surrounding the float were droves of singing parade goers, fully bedecked in white from head-to-toe, which further caused social media to erupt in a brouhaha, criticizing the lack of representation and diversity by the organizers of the parade. The community quickly compared the images of the parade to historical depiction of slavery.
Let us not for one nano of a second forget the real meaning behind St. Jean Baptiste Day. According to the Prime Minister Hon. Justin Trudeau, “it is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the essential contributions Francophones have made to build the diverse, strong and inclusive country that we all call home.” In a like manner, Federal Heritage Minister, Mélanie Joly, said this year’s St-Jean and Canada Day celebrations are unique because they form part of 150th festivities from June 21 to July 2.
“On this important day, I invite Canadians to let the French language shine all across the country, and to celebrate the bright future of the Francophonie in Canada. This exceptional year gives us a fantastic opportunity to open doors and build bridges between the various Francophone communities that are at the heart of our history and our future,” she said in a statement.
Very clearly stated are the sentiments underpinning the celebrations. What was not stated, and was all wrong from the beginning, is the fact that no part of that display referred to Blacks during slavery. Maxime Laporte, head of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal, and organizer of the event, felt that the accusations were somewhat exaggerated and unfair. In his opinion it was pure chance that the Blacks were pulling the float. No time would be wasted on asking in what manner was the request for help stated and solicited, and did it not strike him as somewhat odd that only Blacks offered their strength. The head coach of the school’s football team also dodged the bullet by saying that he failed to see the imminent controversy and that the students were happy to be a part of the parade. Again, that behavior merits no input, for if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then the nomenclature duck is applicable.
A quick history lesson shows how far out the organizers were, and yet we allowed our racist animosities to run rampant. We played right into the hands of all segments of the Francophonies, rather than guide them back into the safe lane. If diversity represents a rattlesnake in Quebec’s garden, then slavery represents a python under our bed.
History is clear, as in Quebecois parlance, “clair comme l’eau de roche”. From its inception as a French colony in the early 1600s, Quebec has had an African-descent presence. In 1709, slavery was legalized in the French colony of Quebec. The first recorded case of Black slavery in this province was a young man “owned” by the English and “bought” by one Guillame Couillard, who was Champlain’s master builder.
Not much is known about this first Black resident of Canada except that he was baptized under the name Olivier Le Jeune, served as a domestic, and died, still a young man and a slave, in 1654. Two thirds of all slaves in the colony were Natives; one third were of African descent. In all, during the 1700s, 1400 Black slaves toiled in Quebec mostly as domestic help. They served as servants in the employ of individual households. The rationale behind the absence of mass slavery such as that in the United States was due to the colder northern climate present in Quebec that did not require massive numbers of slave laborers to work on plantations. It is further evident that no Black male slave could have been pushing any cart in Quebec.
Even in the face of slavery, there were different types of slaves, such as: chattel slaves, debt bondage slaves, forced labour slaves and serfdom slaves, names of which all speak for themselves.
Which manner of slavery was being depicted in the St. Jean Baptiste float? Or better still which type of slave was on duty pushing the float?
We must stand on guard always prepared to act and not react especially in the face of contrived pretext, agencies camouflaging an agenda in order to remain politically viable. Take time to examine the agenda. It is being disguised and hidden within the fabric of succinctly instigated racism, sexism and other forms of hatred and bigotry.
We allowed our clear thinking to be circumvented, and be thrown off the track by agencies displaying a blatant historical lack.
Aleuta—The struggle continues.
For Full Version of Semaji June 2017 Click Here