Remember the part in the movie Zoolander where Derek decides to take a step back from modelling to go work in the mine with his father and two brothers? Recall how out of place Derek seemed to be, wearing his tight aqua blue slacks in a mine full of trench-coat wearing mean-mugs? The feeling Derek had, I’m sure, was quite similar to my own a couple of weeks ago when I voyaged into rural Quebec for the first time.
Being a Montreal city-boy my whole life, there have been few times that I have had the opportunity (some would say desire) to travel outside of Montreal or Quebec City for a long stretch of time. Suffice to say my experiences this past month were eye-opening.
The town I had the pleasure of visiting, fewer than two weeks ago for a trip related to my work, is one in Western Quebec named Rigaud. Fresh off a relaxing summer as a camp counsellor, I was plucked from the comfort of my home and sent on a week long trip in the outskirts of Quebec, not knowing much about what I would come to find. Working in the early mornings, eating around noon, and then working again from about 2pm to 7pm definitely left me craving some much needed sleep in the evenings. Waking up after the first night in Rigaud at a local college, I was not pleased to discover my neck and lower back had been “Chuck Norris’d” by the metal and white pinstriped piece of cloth that had so kindly been provided as a “mattress.”
That second evening after work, I decided I’d go for a run and do a small tour of the town surrounding the college where we were being housed. Up on the mountain, about a half a kilometre up behind our facility, I came to find a beautiful park, absolutely filled with Christian symbols, such as a statue of Jesus Christ, an altar, and a confessional booth. The small community had built an outdoor church more beautiful than any church I had ever seen, and I’ve been to France. Over the next couple of days, all I could do was think about going back to the mountain just north of our facility. Hours of thinking about this place brought a tough paradox to my mind. Rigaud has around 7,000 inhabitants, approximately 77% of whom are francophone, and whose voting charts have given only the slightest edge to the Liberals over the PQ in the past decade. How, in a town like this, where the church area is visibly the most cherished part of the area, do roughly half of the voters opt with the Parti Quebecois and its highly debated Ex-Charter of Values? Sometimes, logic does not reign supreme in politics. Sometimes, it is okay to oppress your peoples’ culture by not allowing them certain religious rights while in the “public sector.” I have a hard time believing that Rigaud’s inhabitants would be very accepting of the forceful suggestion of hiding their religion.
Rigaud shares many likenesses with various other towns in rural Quebec, such as similar demographics and voter turnouts, yet the same problem stands out. As far as I have been taught in geography and politics classes, it is a relatively accurate rule of thumb that urban areas tend to be more secularized than rural areas. Yet PQ votes come prominently from the outskirts of the larger cities. What I’m getting at here is that sometimes there is no sense in a party’s agenda (or a particular piece of it), and just because the party exists or is even in power, does not mean that what they are doing is legitimate or even right. As we approach the six-month anniversary of Philipe Couillard’s election as Premier of Quebec, let us rejoice as a province that such a harmful Charter was never able to pass in our free and democratic country.
Derek Zoolander may not have been a very good miner, but at least he was logical enough to know that something in his immediate environment wasn’t quite right.