|Montreal, December 8, 2001 / No 94|
by Harry Valentine
The 2001 Grey Cup football game between the Calgary Stampeders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was played in Montreal on Sunday, November 25. The Globe and Mail reported that "French and English sat side-by-side, unified behind a single, enthusiastic celebration". Even prior to the game, Albertans had brought western hospitality to Montreal and the Quebeckers joined in. Some Westerners who had received their schooling in (non-compulsory) French immersion, came to Montreal to speak to their Quebec neighbours in their own language. Both revelled in the celebrations.
During the week prior to the Grey Cup, a French language CBC journalist
had caused some controversy in a book he had written, claiming that "English
Canada wanted to have another war with Quebec on the Plains of Abraham".
But we did not see any of this. English Canada came to Montreal for the
Grey Cup and joined in celebrations with people in French Canada. And after
the game, visitors from Western Canada parted company on excellent terms
with residents living in French Canada. Friendship and acceptance seemed
to be the order of the Grey Cup weekend in Montreal.
A celebration of acceptance
The celebration which occurred in Montreal on that weekend has special significance. French and English Canada celebrated together in an event that was free from any political involvement, except the premiers of Alberta and Manitoba attending the game and participating in the revelling. This celebration of acceptance, this en-masse public display of brotherhood was spontaneous. It was the will and sentiment of a large number of people from French and English backgrounds being expressed, unrestrained. It was the spontaneous expression of acceptance between people of two different cultures and the acceptance of their uniqueness and their differences on both individual as well as on societal levels.
This was a celebration of people and their values, of who they are, of what they have in common, of what they enjoy and their willingness to accept each other unreservedly. One unspoken message from the event is that people from English Canada and from French Canada share common values and that they accept each other in an environment which is free from political manipulation or political control, which was the cause of the inter-cultural alienation.
The Grey Cup weekend in Montreal was a non-political event organised by private parties. The celebration of acceptance between Western Canada and French Canada was partly privately organised and partly spontaneous. This was an event no pompous political figure and their advisors could ever have dreamt up. In an atmosphere free from politics, French Canada and English Canada do actually accept each other any without animosity or resentment, despite the wedge previous political blundering may have driven between them.
It seems quite obvious that private people can do a far better job of promoting acceptance between French and English Canada that any level of government. Government officials may don the emperor's fine robes and dupe themselves into thinking that they're promoting Canadian unity, totally unaware that the emperor's derriere may be in full public view as the political shenanigans get underway. A previous QL article suggested that federal political behaviour may have been doing far more to undermine Canadian unity than officials would ever want to imagine (see GOVERNMENT POLICIES ACHIEVE THE OPPOSITE, le QL, no 93).
A beacon of hope for the future
The Montreal Grey Cup weekend could be a stepping stone to facilitate greater future co-operation between private parties in French and English Canada, in an environment free from the proverbial "partnership between government and whomever". If the federal political sector would be willing to stay in the back seat, private people co-operating with private people in diverse regions of Canada, we could see greater private inter-provincial trade, provided that the politically orchestrated restrictions prohibiting such trade are dismantled.
However, the so-called omniscient political sector has duped themselves into believing that acceptance between the private people living in the diverse regions of Canada somehow depends on government-enforced inter-provincial trade barriers and governmental handouts given to favoured industries. This scourge is common in the older, more traditional agricultural and manufacturing sectors in the economy and is one of the main reasons behind the resentment between people living in Canada's diverse regions. It may be that some government officials actually believe in the doctrine of "divide and rule", that is, Canada would be easier to rule if government could devise covert policies that would create or maintain animosity between French and English.
Large numbers of young professionals, like those who came to Montreal during the 2001 Grey Cup weekend, work in the new economy which, for now, is essentially free from the inter-provincial trade barriers and other acts of stupidity and ignorance enacted by the state. Great opportunity for new levels of co-operation could develop from the contacts and acquaintances made during that weekend, especially if the chaperone from Ottawa does not impose its so-called partnership. In such an environment, young professionals from English and French Canada could work together for their mutual benefit by creating new economic and business opportunities for themselves and the regions in which they live.
Unfortunately, the temptation for Ottawa to want to intervene or want to participate in some way will be overwhelming, because some official will want to be seen as the partner promoting national unity. They will be somehow oblivious to the fact that private people working together and taking risks together, supporting each other and depending on each other while using their own resources and ingenuity, in an environment free from the nipple of the state, is what will best promote acceptance and understanding between people from different cultural backgrounds living in different regions of Canada. The spirit which began at the 2001 Grey Cup weekend in Montreal is a beacon of hope for the future; however, it may inevitably become another victim of the agenda for bureaucratic and political self-aggrandisement.
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