Bilingualism, Blue House, Canada, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Rembrandt, University of British Columbia, Victoria
A House Divided
I updated the blog I posted on 25 January 2013: More Thoughts on Quebec. My comments were incomplete. For me, Quebec separatism is a very sensitive subject. Several members of my family, the Quebec branch, are supporters of Madame Marois’ Parti Québécois. However, my family also has a west coast branch. They are not sympathizers of any indépendantiste (separatist) movement.
However, there was a disorderly students’ strike between March and September 2012 and my comments now reflect greater disapproval of the strike. But I do not understand why Quebec did not sign the Patriated Constitution, 1982. I love my country, but it is a house divided (Abraham Lincoln).
When I was a child living in Quebec, Friday was market-day, but we sometimes shopped on rue Wellington, before going to the market. Most of the shops on rue Wellington did not belong to French-speaking Canadians and they have disappeared: an exodus. The architecture, however, is a remnant of a prosperous past.
In the past, as I walked down Sherbrooke Streets with my mother, I kept seeing the word Real Estate everywhere. Réal is a French name. So I ended up telling my mother that Monsieur Réal Estate (Es-ta-te), was probably the richest man in town. He owned so many shops! Mother told me the truth.
We had English-speaking friends and we visited with them. I was a keen observer of interiors from a very young age. I therefore noticed that the difference between French-speaking and English-speaking Canadian citizens had to do with houses. Our English-speaking friends had a fireplace and a bay window in their living-room. How brilliant! All we had was a big stove and no hot water. I therefore decided that when I grew up, I would own an English house.
I did grow older and, by then, we lived on the west coast. We therefore had an English house, a house with a fireplace and a bay window. Victoria was a marvellous place at the time. Our house was near the sea and my mother had enrolled me in a private school for girls: St Ann’s Academy. It was located within walking distance of the house and it had an extraordinary garden, tennis courts, everything. But my father decided to move to Vancouver and they settled so far from the University of British Columbia (UBC) that I chose to complete my B.A. at the University of Victoria. I do not have a Master’s Degree. UBC suggested I enter the PhD programme.
I left Victoria to get a graduate degree. I married and, four years after leaving Victoria, I moved to Toronto, where my husband had found employment. For two years, we lived on the lower floor of a lovely little house in an area of town I had chosen. A year later, I started teaching and it was soon possible for us to buy a house, an English house. I loved our little house.
How Micheline lost her Blue House
But my favourite English house was the Blue House, my Nova Scotia house. It was a cottage-like, two-storey house and it had 22 windows. Although it did not have a bay window, it had the essential fireplace. In fact, it was perfect and located across the street from the campus.
The New Course
A long time ago, I caught a flu and never recovered fully. I can teach three courses, which is a normal workload. But at that stage in my career, I could not be asked to teach courses in unrelated areas. My goal was to finish writing my book on Molière. I was entering a sabbatical leave that would have allowed me to finish my book, but I was told to prepare a course on animals in literature, a course I would have to teach in English. Would that I could have refused. But it was not possible. I was afraid the Chair of my Department would get angry. He once got angry to the point of making me collapse. I fainted.
When I returned to work, I realized I also had to update a language-lab component. I finished upgrading it in November. During the Christmas break, I made sure every lecture of my course on animals in literature was prepared. In February, I started to feel overwhelming fatigue. I saw my doctors who told me I could not finish my teaching assignment. I was given a note and presented it. But despite a doctor’s note, I was not allowed to leave the classroom. My students no longer had a teacher, so I dragged myself to work and completed my 2001-2002 teaching assignment while applying for permanent disability benefits.
In the eyes of my case manager at the Insurance Company, my having completed the academic year was proof positive that I was an imaginary invalid. She had me see a doctor who requested, in writing, that I be told not to leave my home or make serious decisions as I would be able to return to work after an indefinite leave. He diagnosed Depression, not ME, myalgic encephalomyelitis. He thought I would recover. He asked my case manager to tell me not to leave my home in Antigonish or make serious decisions.
I had applied for permanent disability benefits, not an “indefinite” leave. Therefore, when my case manager told me was that my application for disability benefits had been approved, I thought I was free to leave. Not that I wanted to, but it had been suggested to me. My mother was in a hospital and my father had moved to my brother’s house. That The companies Independent Medical Examiner (IME) was right. Under normal circumstances and despite an illness, I could work.
My benefits were terminated, but when I tried to return to work, the Vice-President did not want me to continue teaching. A friend told me they would hurt me, if I returned. I ended up accepting a concealed retirement arrangement. I regained my tenure when my benefits were reactivated, but they would not let me re-enter the classroom.
So, I no longer live in an English house. In short, my story takes one from house to house and, now, infinity…
All of Rembrandt’s paintings are featured at Rembrandt.Org The Complete Works. “Hendrickje Sleeping” is a drawing and the “Self-portrait,” an etching.Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) The most prominent Dutch painter and etcher of the Dutch Golden Age, the seventeenth century The music is by L. van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) It’s one of the 32 sonatas for piano. © Micheline Walker 26 January 2013 WordPress
When there was a military coup in my birth country, my heart almost broke. We have deep connections with our homelands and with our homes. I hope that you will have an English house again.
And in the meantime, I will work at bringing unity to my country.
Students do not go on strike for nearly six months and cause a major disturbance because their tuition fee will be raised by approximately $325.00 dollars a year.
We are citizens of the world. It is our community. And we are citizens of a country. If there is a problem, we can sit at a table and fix it. But, I am not seeing a just cause.
My best to you,
Bonjour Micheline! Hi from a catlover to another… 🙂 I love all Canada, it’s a great country, with wonderful people… I’ve been to Québec, Toronto, Vancouver twice and I do hope to return there asap…
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I like your blog, I’ve landed here via Stefania’s! 🙂 Have a blessed Sunday and a serene week! Bonne chance dans toutes vos activités! Amitiés toulousaines, Mélanie
Thank you Melanie.
I would also prefer to live in a united Canada.
Je vous remercie de vos bons souhaits,
Thank you so much, dear Micheline, because you shared with us the story of your life!
You are a strong woman! I will appreciate very much!
Very nice video that you chose! I really like it!
Be blessed with good health and happiness, dear Micheline!
Have a wonderful and relaxing Sunday!
Big hugs always with love, your friend, Stefania! 🙂
It wasn’t the best of life. But I have to cope with my circumstances.
So, I am making peace my goal. That includes taking guns away from the hands of US citizen. They are like me: human beings and there is divinity to every single life, however humble.
Beethoven and Rembrandt. What a combination! The Internet has marvellous resources.
Big hugs and love always,
This is a very touching story, dear Micheline, and you tell it well.
I noticed that in Canada, most of our Quebec friends supported the PQ – at the University; it is not a question of not being educated or not having travelled everywhere, it is all for emotional, historical reasons – while in Manitoba for example, where they speak French in Saint Boniface (Winnipeg), the people I met scorned the idea of separatism.
I also noticed, when I was in London Ontario in the seventies, that the local media were very, very disparaging about Quebec (except for tourism!). So much so that I truly believed they were an uneducated bunch as a whole (I had never met anyone from the Quebec Province at the time. I have been feeling such shame about that opinion since!).
Recently, it shocked me that my highly educated daughter in Winnipeg has the same “spontaneous” low view about the Quebec Province.
I guess it all depends on your “entourage”…and the radio, TV and newspapers you have around and on which you spontaneously build your opinions.
I wish you many happy hours of writing and piano playing…with a well-behaved cat nearby.
Take care, Lou
You are so right. I have seen considerable support of Québécois. The immersion programmes and summer exchange programmes. All is calculated to uniting the “two solitudes.”
But a disorderly strike because of a $325.00 a year increase in tuition fees for five years did not justify last year’s major disturbance. You are quite right, it was an emotional response.
I lived outside Quebec for forty-two years and was never the object of discrimination on the basis of my mixed but mainly French roots, but I have experienced discrimination on the basis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is ridiculous.
Since returning to Quebec, I have seen abnormalities and discimination on the basis of ethnicity: English. The “Globe and Mail” is not friendly towards Québécois. They are not entirely wrong, nor entirely right. The “House to House” story is in part metaphorical. And although there was a real trickster in my life, I suspect that not signing the “patriated constitution” was the work of a trickster.
I was afraid of writing “From House to House.” But I had to. In Canada, the French language is protected and Louis Riel negotiated the entry into Manitoba into Confederation, his condition was that the French language be protected.
Thank you dear Louvain,
I understand your being afraid about this touchy subject.
This was very brave of you, and the fact that it was deeply felt made you find the pertinent words.
I found this serie of articles extremely interesting. xxx Lou
I was scared, but…xxx Micheline
Naomi Baltuck said:
Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry about your little blue house, and I have heard that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is miserable, not the least because people don’t understand it, and therefore do not always take it seriously. I wish you all the best.
You are very kind Naomi. I think I had to share my story. The problem with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is that very few people believe it exists, including many medical doctors. But some doctors are supportive. Mine is.
I thank you again for your kind and reassuring words.
Take good care of yourself,