THOUGHTS ON THE ARENA PROJECT, OUR DUAL COLONIAL HERITAGE, AND OUR EMERGING SENSE OF UNITY.
This past Wednesday, September 21, 2011, the National Assembly of Québec passed Bill 204, a private members’ bill, which was the brainchild of Agnes Maltais, a member of the PQ party whose avowed intention has usually been up until very recently, to take Québec out of Confederation.
I must, however, applaud Mrs. Maltais for her courage and foresight in her ability to see beyond her party’s official platform, and to advocate for the passage of a bill which, for all intents and purposes, paves the way to finally remove any last obstacles of a legal nature to give the go-ahead to the City of Québec and Quebecor, to build a new arena in Québec city, whose ultimate goal is to secure the return of NHL hockey to our fair city, as well as a whole host of world-class large-scale events such as figure skating, musical shows, and various trade shows, as well as world class religious events such as the potential return of the Pope.
This private members’ bill, as you may recall, was put forth by Mrs Maltais, against the better judgement of many of her caucus colleagues, including, we think, her own leader, Pauline Marois, who seemed to equivocate on the matter, so as to provide what essentially will amount to ironclad legal protection from any future litigation on the part of third parties, who might wish to contest the exclusive management contract of this future arena, which Quebecor signed with the city. Quebecor wanted this legal protection before proceeding with plunking down its tens of millions of dollars of private capital, because it was justifiably fearful of having other parties, possibly other media conglomerates such as Telus, Rogers, or Bell, contesting the exclusivity of their management of the new arena.
Because what is at stake is not just a hockey team, but also a media conglomerate’s sponsorship visibility throughout an entire region of this country when it comes to sports, culture, entertainment, and any major event which has the potential to reach a large segment of the market in this part of the country, and which will therefore serve as an important gateway to act as a conduit for advertisers to plug their products and services on the Quebecor network of media properties, for example, Videotron cable, TVA and LCN television, their new sports channel, Le Devoir, Journal de Montréal and Québec newspapers, and a whole host of grocery store check out magazines dealing with the Québec entertainment industry, not to forget Archambault music, and the Réseau Contact dating website.
So what I see emerging is an increasing awareness on the part of people like Mrs. Maltais, of just how interconnected are the notions of the peaceful pursuit of trade, commerce, industry, and finance, with such traditionally contentious notions of language, culture, identity and nationalism. What I see emerging is a more transcendental feeling that in fact, we’re all in this together, that this new arena, will be beneficial to all Québecers as well as all Canadians. That regardless of what language you speak, or what culture you’re from, or what religion you practice, if any in some cases, we all essentially agree that we need this secular temple as a focal point to gather us together as one, whatever the occasion may be: A Nordiques game, a visit by the Pope, a musical show, a conference, any major event for hundreds of kilometres around will be held in our new arena. It will gather people from not only Québec city, but also the Chaudière-Appalaches region: The Beauce, the Asbestos region, Saguenay-Lac St. Jean, the North Shore, Gaspé, even as far away as New Brunswick and parts of the northern U.S.A.
When the Montréal Canadiens make the playoffs, I’ve seen fans interviewed on the streets of Montréal who drove 16 hours from northern Ontario to be at the Bell Centre to see the Habs. Can you imagine how the new arena here in Québec city will draw them in? Like they said in ‘Field of Dreams’: Build it, and they will come.
This makes me think a lot about this part of the country as an emerging focal point for unity and peace. I see more and more people who’re realizing just what an amazing gift it has ultimately been to us as Québecers and Canadians, to have undergone a process of dual colonization. We’re proud inheritors of the traditions, laws, languages, cultures, economic and religious systems of two of the greatest ethno-linguistic groups on this planet, and we’ve only been enriched even more by having the traditions of the indigenous peoples and new arrivals added to our shores.
We’re definitely not bound to be prisoners of our history, much less are we bound to perpetrate the perpetuation of the ethno linguistic conflicts of our forbearers. We do, however, have the duty, honour, and privilege of living in Québec, where the river narrows, which, if you know your Bible, is akin to the narrow gate through which one must pass to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So essentially, Québec is the narrow gate through which the key to unlocking the Kingdom of Confederation must necessarily pass if we are to truly live together as one in Canada.
Perhaps Mrs. Maltais is on to something without even realizing it. Perhaps the Spirit is moving her in ways she has yet been able to discern. One thing is for certain. Her caucus colleagues who bolted from the PQ in protest because they felt the party should’ve been focusing more on whipping the old dead horse of secession, really are off course, as far as I’m concerned.
So here’s to Agnes Maltais. A transcendental woman who is able to see beyond narrow partisanship. Like we say in French: ‘Agnes pas!!!’ Have a blessed day.