(Translation of French text)
To my friends and neighbours in the Lac- Megantic area:
The first time I wrote about what I saw happening here I did so in English, because my French isn’t perfect. I didn’t want to open myself to all those who so love to jump into criticism without really listening first.
This is the ‘Sauvageresse’ (literally, ‘the female savage’, ‘wild woman’ or ‘squaw’) speaking. The ‘tite noire du 6’, (literally, ‘the little black woman on the 6th range’) living among you for nearly three decades now, but always ‘from away ‘. In the best tradition of the jester, the tea leaf reader, the mistress, the hairdresser and the priest, I’ve listened as you emptied your hearts … your guts…for years. Some of you noticed that I clashed somewhat in rural Quebec with my skin colour, my language and my weird ideas. To others, I’ve always been just invisible: “You’ve been here how long?” I raised my children here on the farm; only one decided to stay around and to sing to you of Beauty and Injustice. I’ve had enough time to observe you…closely. I know you well….
I have to make something clear right away: I ‘m not a journalist. My thing is not names and numbers – who did what, when. For over forty years I’ve worked with emotions, beliefs (woven of emotions and thought) and the human body. I listen carefully to what people say to me, with the deep awareness that this is the reality of one person, at a specific time, and has nothing necessarily to do with the outer world. What a person expresses to me is an indication of what she personally perceives – a work created of her past and her awareness. What I know of what is happening in Lac -Mégantic comes from the hearts of the people – hearts so full of suffering of all kinds that I can no longer remain silent….it hurts too much.
I wrote, the first time, of the class system that is so solidly anchored in Lac- Mégantic. I saw the explosion of the city as a potential shaking up of the rigid hierarchy that has always seemed immovable – there was hope of a renaissance – jobs for young people in new and green technologies, room for creativity – finally!
But instead, the city was invaded. A big money machine came to town, just like in the movies, and erected a high and symbolic fence around the centre of Megantic, with security guards at the entrances – all for the safety of the population, of course…. Straight out of The Matrix….
Nobody knows what really goes on inside the fence. Whispers began – leaks here and there that spoke of money being siphoned out of the reconstruction project. But nothing can be confirmed. It is whispered that there were people who came with big and open hearts from around the world, to offer their services to create a new town on new, sustainable foundations – and all were sent home with ‘No, thanks – everything is under control … ‘ But nothing can be confirmed . Precisely. Everything is under control.
Whispers say there is abuse of family ties, but nothing can be confirmed. Shopkeepers in the inner section of town who lost their businesses to policy decisions, but not to fire, are not compensated. Hundreds of people have lost their futures, but big businesses have flocked like vultures to feed on the corpse of the town – and the spirits of its citizens. Singers, hockey teams, tourists … Wasn’t there a circus thrown in as well? The distraction that was called ‘comfort ‘ was dosed like Valium throughout the summer. ‘Finally, there is joy in Lac- Megantic,’ read the rest of the province – the Canadians hockey team had arrived! And when all these well-intentioned people had shaken all the hands there were to shake, had finished with their photo- ops and gone home, what, then, of the good citizens of Lac- Megantic? We must welcome tourists, of course! Arriving by train, on top of it! The irony is simply unbelievable….
The climate of fear is palpable. We hear of phones being tapped … of threats being made. But nothing can be confirmed. Nobody dares to say aloud what they know and think. Except when they come to see me.
I hear two versions from two types of citizens. The ‘good Catholics ‘, even those who don’t go to church anymore, expect the authorities to do their best to give us a brand new town centre – a new era of prosperity will begin, none of the factories that are eating our forests will close because the train will start up again as soon as possible, and Thank Heavens, everyone will keep their jobs. ‘They seem to believe that telling us as little as possible is the best thing – I don’t know about that… “, a young mother tells me, uncertain.
Others of you came screaming and crying in frustration and helplessness, wracked by the impotence of being forced to stay in homes invaded by macabre tourists and air that reeks of fire and death … by strangers who seem to think they know better than you what would be the best future for your town…our town.
I was losing sleep. I spoke of the need to tell all this to the media – they’ve been around so much – for once they could serve your interests, not just their own. You told me that the media has been told all this…that they know even better than you what is happening, but they don’t dare say anything! But nothing can be confirmed. OK. One of my sons is just finishing journalism school – maybe he could help?
So this is how my son returned from Montreal – to talk to people, to try to do something for Lac- Megantic , the place he still considers his home. Here, he heard the same things as I have, from many bitter mouths. Brand new as a journalist, he made mistakes. Accepting a deadline of two days to arrive in Megantic, talk to people and write the text, he did not do a thorough check on the first name of a person who was cited by several people. What this man supposedly said seems to resonate deeply – the anecdote repeated about him makes him into a sort of Robin Hood … On reflection, perhaps he is more of a Don Quixote….But nothing can be confirmed.
The article came out on a Thursday morning and was removed almost immediately. Nobody wanted to admit having said what they said – supposedly, threats were made and expressing themselves had put people in danger. But nothing can be confirmed. The editor of the newspaper that published the article called my son a liar, but she did not check his work either (although she kept the item one week – it was not time that was lacking). My son tells me that she swore he will never work again as a journalist, but nothing can be confirmed.
So now, it’s me that is talking.
You know, I found out that this big machine that invaded Megantic and that nobody wants to name aloud has a branch, a company called Genivar, in my native country, Trinidad and Tobago! Oh, the coincidences of life! (http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=6710645).
Trinidad is the only place in the world other than Quebec where Genivar is based. The government there has created a department of development (UdeCOTT) and has a Canadian, John Calder Hart, as president. Calder Hart hired Genivar to manage the responsibilities of said department. It took charge, for example, of the restructuring of the nation’s capital, Port -of-Spain (http://www.guardian.co.tt/ news/2012-05-06/udecott-quashes-genivardcal-contract). The company, of minimal resources at first, saw incredible growth in its revenues. A commission of inquiry was convened to look into the corrupt involvement of private corporations with the state. No charge has been laid, but matchmaker Calder Hart was forced to flee the country in 2010…. (http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/03/07/trinidad-tobago-the-hart-of-the-matter/) All this can be confirmed.
Are there not enough similarities between the stories of Megantic and Trinidad to give you the chills?
I’m dropping the reins for someone else to pick up here – as I told you, I’m not a journalist. But after forty-odd years of observing human life, I know that emotions do not arise from nothing – there is always at least one concrete seed of experience amidst the fog. And when a large percentage of a community is experiencing feelings that revolve around…. something that cannot be confirmed, it seems to me that it would be in the interest of the community to put on its pants, to unite, and to unearth the necessary and pertinent confirmations.
Who, I wonder, will dare to continue to unravel this tangle of lies, corruption , abuse of power, and even worse – the betrayal of a people already stripped and vulnerable … all of it, of course, unconfirmed ?
May the greatest possible good be done for all beings….
Blessings and Peace,