Montr̩al Stories { No. 1 } РLove in the Time of Fear

Sunset Through Time

A few weeks back I was walking past the Faubourg after work and was stopped by a young guy, looking a bit lost, asking for a smoke. I obliged and he asked if I wouldn’t mind answering a personal question. I took him up on the offer, though initially for no more reason than to practice my ameliorated French with a bonafide Parisian (the accent is a dead giveaway). He asked me if I thought it was possible to experience true love more than once in a lifetime. I couldn’t have been happier to discuss my philosophical ruminations on love, though when he explained his precise situation amidst the pouring late-October ice-rain, my heart sank. It looks like this young guy, aged 18, had packed his bag for Montréal and hoped on the first available flight to try and win back his love. He had met a Canadian in Paris and had fallen madly in love her over the summer. When her time in Paris came to an end, they decided to try their hand at a long-distance relationship, she no older nor any wiser than he. It failed as so many others do, and so he came to see her at her apartment at the Grey Nun’s Mother House, not knowing what he’d do if she ultimately rejected him. He had nothing and was wearing a thin sweater, soaked head to toe. She wasn’t very amused to see him, and threw him out with a Concordia Security guard’s bum-rush to seal the deal. Though he was heart-broken, I can’t imagine why she would have needed to get a big burly security guard, though I guess distance (and stupidity) made the heart grow more determined. I consoled him as best I could and reminded him that yes, indeed, he will probably find love again, perhaps a more meaningful love than the one he thought he had lost.

Ultimately, he was irreconcilable, and I don’t think I convinced him much. I asked him where he was staying, what his plan was. He said he didn’t know, he had nowhere to stay and that his return flight left in three days, so he’d try to sleep at the airport. The moment of dawning realization was still far from fully manifesting itself in his eyes, though I could tell it wouldn’t be much longer before he realized the magnitude of his decision.

I couldn’t tell whether I was happy to see that grand romantic gestures still existed, or that I was no longer as immature and inexperienced as he. I despised that cynicism, wondering if it would cloud my judgment forevermore, or if it was simply a life well-lived that made me critical of the romantic impulse. Still, to travel all this way on little more than a prayer is remarkable for its optimism and naiveté – both so extreme it’s maddening.

I hope she made the right decision, and I know he’ll never do anything so clueless again. Such is the allure of a Montréal girl…

Cultural Synthesis

Church of St-Micheal and St-Anthony, Montréal

This is a picture of the Church of St-Micheal and St-Anthony, in the Plateau neighbourhood of Montréal. Originally built for the largest anglophone parish in Montréal, the church initially served the Mile End’s original Irish working-class population. Completed in 1915, the church is particular for its generally Byzantine-style architecture, undoubtedly an homage of sorts to the Hagia Sophia, with a large copper-clad dome and a minaret. However, upon closer inspection you’ll notice traditional Irish symbols, most notably the ubiquitous shamrock, which take the form of reliefs and windows, among other things. In 1964, the church opened a Polish mission to reflect the change in local religious demographics. Today it serves a primarily Polish/Italian congregation.

So to recap: Montréal has a beautiful church built for an Irish population, in a Byzantine style heavily influenced by a massive cathedral/mosque in Istanbul. It serves a predominantly Polish and Italian congregation with additional services in Ukrainian, and is strategically located in Montréal’s Jewish/Greek/Hipster neighbourhood.

You gotta love how we do cosmopolitanism…

Sadly, this isn’t a joke…

Remember those fascists over at the SSJB Youth Wing and the Jeunes Patriotes du Québec? Well, it looks like they’re not entirely alone, as there’s a new group of right-wing extremists, and I’m not talking about Maxine Bernier’s half-hearted attempt at a comeback. These happy fellows are members of the Milice Patriotique Québecoise and seem to be well-acquainted with members from the RRQ and the rest of Québec’s backwards facing minority, which seem to have a fetish for death and destruction. If you listen to these people, they will tell you the Canadian Forces are preparing to invade Québec, slaughter the innocent, rape the land and inflict a genocide against the French. I thought it was a joke, but it seems to be somewhat legit.

Above is a video they put out, demonstrating their ability to play soldier. They are very good at playing soldier, my guess is that they’d put most 10 year-olds to shame with their impressive knowledge of crawling, running, kneeling, pointing, map-use and camouflage colour-coordination.

On a more serious note – do these people pose a threat to our society? A recent CBC Montréal story indicates that the group itself is purposely vague about who they feel threatened by, though its website and ‘promotional’ videos make it pretty clear they feel threatened, oddly, by the supposed presence of CSIS infiltrators and equally aggressive Anglo-extremist groups. Here’s a link to the Anglophone Patriots of Quebec, 17 members. And this is the seemingly dormant blog of the Defense Association of Anglophone Quebec. The MPQ also refers to a letter put out by the ‘Anglophone Assault Group’ which apparently sent a letter to Le Devoir in 1996 listing the sovereignists they intended on assasinating. The only reference I could find on Google was a reference in an article published in 1996 in Protem, the Glendon College newspaper (Glendon in a bilingual liberal arts college associated with York University).

All told, it seems as though this whole sordid affair is little more than a bunch of grownups feeling threatened by ‘the other’ and resorting to childhood fantasies of war, heroism and all that other shit. I can’t imagine these organizations are anything more than loose affiliations, but still – it makes your skin crawl.

The question is how best to respond to organizations of this type – extremist nationalists of any variety base their entire public image on the pretense of directed aggression against a self-described minority and the societal ideal of an individual willing to risk their lives in defense of the defenseless. But when the threat is imagined, there’s no limit to defensive posturing, no act nor preparation too extreme. In essence, it’s a carte-blanche for self-perpetuating extremism.

So I guess the bigger question is why these groups are reported on in the first place? I’ve always been critical of major anglophone media outlets in Montréal for covering the activities of the separatist fringe – drawing attention to them will only increase the fear, and the fear is ultimately baseless since these organizations have about an ice-cube’s chance in hell of carrying out a military action in defense of the people of Québec. Again, there’s no threat.