On October 1 of last year, I wrote the first installment in this series of columns. Placing myself on some sort of pedestal, I had intended to describe and discuss issues that are too often overlooked by anglophone campus media at McGill. My goal was clear: I wanted McGill students to be aware of major policy events that affect Quebecers. One could argue at length that McGill students are disconnected from life outside the Roddick Gates, and that this disconnect is augmented by linguistic and cultural barriers that are too often left unchallenged. Seizing Solitude was an opportunity to question these assumptions and allow readers to get a glimpse of what gets media attention in the province’s French-speaking press.
I must now admit that I began this adventure with yet another topic in mind. No one who lives in Montreal can brush aside the issue of Quebec nationalism. While many Canadians are tired of hearing about this, I still felt it was my duty to get my point across. I thus became the resident sovereigntist at a university that embodies the essence of maple leaf-touting federalism for most of us Québécois. To this day, this ironic situation remains one of the virtues of studying at McGill, even though most of my compatriots cringe at the thought of even crossing those gates on Sherbrooke. In fact, I can guarantee without a doubt that all of your francophone friends have been grilled on their university of choice, and many have been called traitors in the process.
While the exercise of demystifying franco Quebec to you anglos was at times daunting, I sincerely hope readers of this column now acknowledge the distinction between our two nations. In the very first sentence, I wrote: “It sometimes baffles me how you do not understand us.” To this, my fledgling editor replied: “Who is the ‘you’, and who is the ‘me’?”, a question to which I had no answer. I had taken for granted who the protagonists of this story were, and blamed the editor’s ignorance on that fact that he was an American. In fact, I got so pissed off when he changed the title of the first column that he never questioned my use of pronouns again.
Being a columnist was not my first foray in student journalism. It all started four years ago when I was introduced to The Daily during a (rad) frosh event. I have occupied some position within the organization ever since. But, with graduation fast approaching, my days as a member of this organization are numbered.
I must say first off that this has been one hell of a ride. Around the office, a saying goes that you’ll never work as hard as you did at The Daily. The singular mix of inexperience, constant discovery, and the lack of proper compensation or recognition makes this the ultimate character-building experience. I can safely say that I have learned as much – if not more – in our windowless basement office as I have in the lecture halls.
The Daily is sort of a microcosm of the quintessential Canadian paradox. Two papers, one in English and the other in French, living day-to-day in the same office, sharing resources and staff, yet having the hardest time creating bonds and relationships that develop past each and everyone’s clerical duties. Of course, some of us have been better at this than others, but the fact remains that our different cultures have lead to bouts of incomprehension and miscommunication that are quite unsettling.
In the end, thus, I cannot say that I understand you better, but at least I was forced to find a middle-ground on which we could all work together. The Daily has been an integral part of my life throughout my undergrad years, but the time has come to leave it to your caring hands.
Alexandre de Lorimier may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.