On the road: “You don't realize how lucky you are to live in such a quiet Quebec” | Elections Quebec 2022
In Mauricie, more and more immigrants are discovering the virtues of a peaceful and tranquil Quebec. The writer Bryan Perro hopes for a new quiet revolution to bring Quebec out of its “intellectual misery”. This text is the eleventh in our series On the road – In search of Quebec.
Nadine Kakoheryo, of Congolese origin, runs a grocery store and various products in downtown Trois-Rivières.
TROIS-RIVIÈRES–SHAWINIGAN – And then we set off for Trois-Rivières, whose motto is: “Très Trois-Rivières”. So find out what that means. For Nadine Kakoheryo, in any case, Trois-Rivières is peace, big peace. “When I left the Congo, an acquaintance of mine had experienced the horror. Rebels broke into her father's house and gave the family a choice: either kill the father or rape the daughter. They did both. They raped the girl in front of the father and then killed him in front of his family. »
Nadine fled a Congo at war in the early 2000s. I lived on the border with Rwanda. I lived in a climate of permanent danger. Women in the Congo are entitled to a double insecurity, either you get raped or you get killed. I am well in Quebec. He shook my hand and I found security there.
Nadine refuses to reveal her age. She laughs and responds, mischievous. We don't ask women that. After living in Sherbrooke and then in Montreal, she decided to settle in Trois-Rivières*.
I dreamed of being my own boss, she explains in front of the vases and wigs she sells in her small business, the Top Africa grocery store, on boulevard des Forges, where she also sells imported products. who taste Africa. There are many African students at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières and more and more immigrants from my continent. Before, they had to go to Montreal to get supplies. Now they can find sweet potato leaves, cassava leaves, bissap here.
Nadine likes maple syrup, poutine, shepherd's pie. That's very cool, she said, all smiles. But she thinks it's nice that, conversely, people from Trois-Rivières can discover new flavors thanks to her. Very few people here have ever been to Africa. Since the grocery store opened, I can share a bit of my continent with them.
I ask her if she is interested in the election campaign. But yes! Sure! I won't tell you who I'm going to vote for, it's my little secret, but I'm going to vote for the political party that will protect peace. Nadine challenges me with this observation: The security you have in this province, you don't realize how lucky you are!
Darwin Muralles-Alvizures, temporary worker
On the other side of Boulevard des Forges, Guatemalan workers take advantage of their days off at the vegetable farm that employs them to shop and grab a bite to eat at Latine Rico, where you can find dried peppers, salsa verde, guava paste. Darwin Muralles-Alvizures is 26 years old. A temporary worker, he must return at the beginning of October to Guatemala, where criminal gangs are undermining the daily life of the country. Besides, he would like to come and settle in Quebec, for good. It's the feeling of security that I like here, he tells me.
At Chez Rico restaurant, Andréa O'Campo and her mother Patricia Salazar.
Very Trois-Rivières, very peaceful, above all, because the owner of Latine Rico, Andréa O’Campo, 30, also came to settle here to escape the violence. Along with her mother, Patricia Salazar, 53, they were threatened by members of a cartel in Colombia.
We left a place where we were never at peace. In Quebec, in Trois-Rivières in particular, it's very calm, says Andréa, smiling. Today, I am proud to be a Quebecer. That's what I find interesting in Quebec, it's also French, it sets us apart from the rest of North America. It is important for Quebec to defend its language, she adds. But I want Quebec to stay in Canada, specifies Andréa, who is thinking of giving her vote to the CAQ. I believe that François Legault manages his business well, she summarizes.
Restored Tacos al Pastor, Ivanoh and I take the 155 towards Hérouxville, a famous municipality in the region, a stone's throw from Saint-Tite. Suddenly, everyone in Quebec knew the name of our small municipality, recalls Josée Trahan, who takes her daily walk on rue du Couvent.
In 2007, Hérouxville adopted an astonishing code of conduct, prohibiting the stoning of women and female circumcision on its territory. It was in 2007, when the expression reasonable accommodation was part of the vocabulary of politicians and journalists. But we don't talk about that any more, reasonable accommodation, that's over, says Josée Trahan, who explains to us that many new citizens come to settle in Hérouxville. It's cheaper than in Shawinigan and it's quieter. Tranquility, again.
Writer Bryan Perro in front of the ruins of the Belgo factory in Shawinigan.
In Quebec, it seems, even revolutions have died down. In Shawinigan, author and publisher Bryan Perro evokes the cultural gains due to the Quiet Revolution in front of what remains of the Belgo paper mill, singular ruins decorated with graffiti.
The same year that Hérouxville published its code of conduct, the AbitibiBowater paper company announced the permanent closure of the Belgo plant, inaugurated in 1904. If there were so many industries that settled in Shawinigan at the beginning of the 20th century is that hydroelectricity starts here. Indeed, in 1898, John Edward Aldred founded Shawinigan Water and Power. Shawinigan was to develop like Manhattan, says Perro. That's why we have a Broadway street, a 5th avenue and huge parks like in New York.
The successful writer talks about his two quasi-illiterate grandfathers who worked in these industries. Francophones worked for starvation wages in factories owned by an Anglophone elite. Compared to that, culture, education, economic emancipation, Quebec is doing cursedly better. We have taken giant steps, but more must be done, he believes, quoting documentary filmmaker Pierre Perrault. Take other steps, For the rest of the world.
A walk along the Saint-Maurice River in the village of Shawinigan.
A few years ago, after the success of his series Amos Daragon, among others, Bryan Perro wondered what the rest of his world would look like. He decided to devote himself to culture in the region and now heads Culture Shawinigan.
– And then Bryan, how is culture in Quebec? There is a lot of intellectual misery in Quebec, as in many societies elsewhere, and this is our main social challenge.
The writer understands by intellectual misery a lack of education and culture. He refers to the alarming rates of illiteracy and school dropouts that are still rampant in Quebec. The lack of education causes the sense of the collective, the reflection, the depth to fade away in a perception of the world based on emotion.
Perro sets the example of this election campaign. A tunnel is the main issue on which we persist in Quebec. We have swapped social projects to offer the emotion linked to an infrastructure project! This means that either Quebec is doing quite well, he says ironically, or it is going rather badly.
*Aux Trois-Rivières is a borrowing from Gérald Godin, writer Trois-Rivières and politician, who signed his texts addressed to his accomplice of more than 30 years, the artist Pauline Julien.