A work of political fiction by Jean Lagacé
The scene is the offices of a lawyer in Beauceville, province of Québec, Canada. On a chair facing Me Rocquebrune’s massive desk, Arthur Taitu, a rich farmer, is sitting quietly, waiting for his solicitor to finish reading to him from a petition that he is expected to sign later. Taitu is a little man with a decided temperament. One look at him is enough to know that one is facing an individual of a determinate disposition and that once started, any business with him will have to go his way or else. But right now, Arthur Taitu is not so sure. Why, he thinks that he is way over his head with this project that he has started at great cost and has him one Wednesday morning listening to his solicitor mumbling silly legalese to his quite incomprehensible ears.
And he doesn’t like the feeling that much. The last time he was here, in this same room, was six years before when he had sued Amédé Trudel over farm machinery material that had made his life miserable ever after buying the heavy-weight equipment. Then, he finds himself looking around, seeing on the walls that surround him all those pictures of Me Rocquebrune smiling at or shaking hands with local dubious celebrities. Who are these people, he asks himself, not at all impressed by the display that makes the place look like some Kiwanis president headquarters. Anyway, there is in the monotonous voice of his solicitor an air of quiet authority, the words he uses look erudite and scholarly and the fact that he can’t make head or toe out of the incoherent paragraphs reassures Arthur in the end. After all, it is the way it should be. How could these men of law win cases if they were to talk in a lingo that any Joe Bloe like himself could decipher? And then, something in the lawyer’s voice stopped his rêverie. After so much “Whereas” that Arthur had cared to count, now Me Rocquebrune is starting to make sense and then, what he gets is his client’s full attention.
The story Arthur is now hearing goes this way:
September 4, 2012, the Parti Québécois had won the Quebec elections, gaining for themselves a majority government of 70 out of 125. It had been a severe defeat for the last nine years premier Jean Charest and his Parti Liberal. The PLQ that was left with 21 deputies in the new parliament, in third place after La Coalition pour l’Avenir du Québec, a new formation created by PQ renegade François Legault who had managed to get 43 of his kind elected with 32% of the popular vote.
Against PQ’s 38% and PLQ 20%.
For the first time in history, there was in Québec a woman Premier. It was indeed for Pauline Marois a great personal victory even if her party had been taken over lately by radicals who had forced upon her the RIP, (Référendum d’Initiative Populaire). Everybody knew in Quebec that the issue of the separation of Quebec from Canada wasn’t that popular after two lost consultations in 1980 and 1995 and that any new one would be lost without a doubt. But those facts were not to deter the zealots in the party from forcing a new one on the population however divisive it could be. Hence the RIP that made it possible for 15% of the registered voters to petition their way to one new referendum. It was expected that the radicals in the PQ would not leave power without putting that issue another time in front of the people, either with Marois full consent or without her benediction via the RIP.
And then, lawyer Rocquebrune petition’s brings the action back in early 2013.
Minister Pierre Duchesne is in his office in the Parliament house in Québec. On his desk is a map of the province that he is now showing to his colleague Jean-François Lisée. Duchesne is a little uncomfortable. He is not sure what to expect. This idea of his, he entertained for a long time but never expressed it to anybody else for fear of the way it will be received. Because the concept he is about to expose to Lisée is quite shocking and he knows that most will see it as indecent, frightful or horrendous. And still, if they want to win this thing... because, he knows. He knows that if they do what he is now going to propose, his side will win the next referendum. There can be no discussion about that. He is so much certain of the matter that it is not even open for discussion. The thing is self evident. You do what he proposes and the expected result will come. The word chemistry pops out in his head. CHEMISTRY!
That’s it! Chemistry! This is just chemistry, he thinks.
Duchesne is now ready for Lisée.
- You see this? he asked.
- Well, yes. It is a map. What about it?
- You take a good look at that little triangle there, this little piece of land with rivers on both sides and the Ontario borders at its west flank?
- I think it is called the Beauharnois district, says Lisée.
- And then, you add up the western part of the Island of Montreal.
- So what?
- You know how many anglos live in that area.
- To many.
That gets Lisée the expected laugh.
- 920,000 as a matter of fact.
Lisée shrugs his shoulders.
- Tell me something I don’t know.
- Plus 300,000 or so of allophones, I mean people who may speak french but use English in their day to day life.
- Out of a population of how many, the total living in that zone of yours, if I may ask.
- One million and a half.
- So that leaves 300,000 people of our kind living there.
- And not many of them we can expect to answer YES to the right question, if you care to have my take on that subject.
- I would tend to agree with you on this one.
- What if… The other stops, why, is he afraid? They are just talking after all. No harm done.
And Lisée, for his part, is interested. Duchesne can see that. There are in his eyes some sparkle of intelligent speculation. The guy is smart. Nobody, friends or foes, will dispute much or long over that issue.
And now, without being told, Lisée can see by himself where this demonstration is leading. Well. How come he never up to this minute considered the notion himself? He looks at the map. Which is so big that it takes more space than Duchesne’s desk provide.
All of it, Québec.
And, in the lower center of it all, this small red dot, drawn with a marker, thank’s to his friend’s artistic skills, no bigger than one of his shirt button. A piece so small that it couldn’t make any geographical difference and still, a morsel that could be the answer to their dreams of creating a country for themselves in America.
- What if ? Duchesne repeats, and then, he sees the half smile on Lisée’s face and knows that he has a sell.
- You want to get rid of the lot, isn’t it? Lisée asks.
- We lost the last one because of them.
- The old man had it right, isn’t it? Lisée is referring to premier Jacques Parizeau in 1995 who had said, the night of the crushing defeat of the yes vote at 49.42%: “We have been beaten by money and… the ethnic vote.”
- I would say, good riddance, don’t you?
- How big is that area, anyway?
- 3000 square miles, I think. Look at it. 60 by 50 at the most. No even that much.
- One tiny appendix.
- Nicely put, Duchesne agrees.
- I say. It could be done.
- Damn right you are.
- It would take care easy of one million and a half NO votes, that’s for sure.
- And except for those lousy 3000 square miles, what’s left of Quebec would be French alright, not to be bothered anymore about minority rights. That would be the day, don’t you think?
- What about Montreal? Lisée asks at that point.
- The west part of it starts at the boulevard St-Laurent. So, there will be English Montreal and French Montreal.
- There goes downtown Montreal.
- We will build ourselves a bigger one.
- This may be a tough sell for some.
- Never like the damn place, anyway, concluded Duchesne.
And so it was. Arthur Taitu remembered the events past that were now part of his lawyer’s narrative. The PQ had initiated talks with Harper conservative Canada’s government and it had been decided that if the people of the province of Quebec were to agree by referendum to the partition of their territory, so be it. Both governments had then voted one constitutional amendment that created one federal territory in the area known as the Québec western peninsula which had been permitted by successful referendums held in both Québec and the so called “appendice”.
Later, in 2014, there had been a new referendum where the then actual population of Québec, six and a half million inhabitants, were invited to decide if they wanted to stay in Canada or not. Those mostly French citizens had decided 61% in favour of secession. Arthur Taitu was part of the 39% of the very angry French Canadians that felt betrayed and abandoned by their Federal Government.
Which explained why Taitu, who was up to now a perfect nobody, (but would soon be no more, thanks to Me Rocquebrune efforts) had initiated this petition against those politicians he had hated all his life, those of the péquiste variety and who had, in some kind of machiavellian plot, done the unthinkable and in doing so, were about to win the game. This couldn’t be. This was too much. He, Arthur Taitu, being left with all the idiotic and witless characters that were, these days, crying out loud all their crazy schemes to reconstruct the province their way and to him, it looked definitely like the course of a mob into the direction of a bottomless pit made out of leftist political lunacy.
Now, would Me Rocquebrune be able to pull this off? For sure, his lawyer looked the part. He had the learned and reassuring allure of the intellectual species as Taitu imagined the lot should look. Didn’t mean anything. Taitu who hadn’t read anything in his life except the Almanach and the baseball book of records. But Rocquebrune knew his way around and he had obtained the collaboration of one constitutional professor from McGill University. So he must have had his conclusions right as he was now reciting them, Chinese to Arthur’s ears.
There was a lot of “quash left and right” and “annul here and there” and “declare null and void this and that”. But when all was said and done, Arthur Taitu had been told that what he was asking the court to do was to tell them all politicians to fuck themselves with their dirty shenanigans. To take their little laws and shove them up their asses. And to leave him in peace. Yup. Leave him in peace. In the Canada he liked and who had, up to now, protected him, his property and his animals from the thieving separatists.
The story is a work in progress. You will have to come back for more.