Yes, all right, Madam Speaker.
Along with the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, I was the spokesperson for Mouvement Montréal Français. That was quite a long time ago.
I organized a protest called J'aime ma langue dans ta bouche, or “I like my tongue in your mouth”.
The point of keeping French alive is to make the French language the place where everyone comes together in Quebec, the place where people meet, the crossroads for all the people who live in Quebec. People come here from all over the world. They come to our province. They adopt our country. They come to Quebec. They come to Montreal. They come to Quebec City. They come to Matane. They come to Rimouski. They come to Sept‑Îles. We must therefore ensure that the French language becomes the meeting place par excellence for all the people who live in our province.
When we put on that show, I remember, we had no fear. We put on a 12‑hour show. I went a bit overboard. It started at noon and ended at midnight. It seemed interminable, but we were sending a strong message. I invited people from all over to that show, artists who had been in Quebec for two years, six months, 12 years, 20 years. I invited them to come celebrate Quebec culture, celebrate this language that we all share. It was amazing. It is still available on social media.
I remember very well that there was a Tamil music group called Ananda Prasad. It was at the Lion d'Or, on Papineau, in Montreal. These musicians came in traditional costume. It was beautiful. They were also on stage at Lion d'Or. Behind them, I had put up a photo of Serge Fiori. They had instruments from southeast Asia. It was beautiful. They sang Comme un sage by Harmonium. It was so beautiful with the accents of that music. On that stage at Lion d'Or, it was like a meeting between us and them, between the language and the people from around the world. It was magnificent. It was extraordinary.
We organized this event for a year or two, and then I loosened up. The event was cut from 12 hours to two hours. Afterwards, we realized that there was no point holding this event at the Lion d'Or because this venue is located in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood. We wanted to convince people of this idea of making French the place where everyone comes together, but everyone in Plateau Mont-Royal already believes it. At least, everyone believed it 10 years ago. Today, perhaps not quite as many do.
We then moved the event to Côte‑des‑Neiges, where 91 different languages are spoken. We held the event in a park. We set up a stage. I remember it. Yann Perreau was there, as well as Catherine Major and other artists from all over. It was really incredible. We tried to entice people, to get people to say that our language is magnificent and our culture is extraordinary. We wanted them to adopt it, to join this adventure that was important to us, the adventure of making this little corner of America a francophone land.
Today, we realize that it did not quite work. We see it. Language is not just a string of useful phonemes. It is not just “pass me the butter”, “are we going to the movies tonight” or “I am taking my car to the garage”. It is not just about utilitarian things. A language conveys more than that. It tells about who we are, our values and our history.
I want to say this. As members know, Serge Bouchard is an anthropologist who wrote books. He died a year or two ago. He wrote extraordinary things. He had a radio show on Radio-Canada where he talked about language, culture and all sorts of other subjects. He talked about something absolutely fascinating in one of his books. It shows how a language or even a word can say so much about who we are. That is what is at stake here. That is what we could lose.
In Quebec, when you say “orignal”, the French word for moose, it brings to mind all sorts of images. It says something.
We all have uncles, fathers, grandfathers or brothers who went hunting in the fall. They came back with moose antlers. They put them on the hood of their car and drove around town. Everyone in Quebec who is over the age of 40 remembers that. The word “orignal” is therefore part of Quebec culture. It is a Basque word. It is so extraordinary to think about. The French word for moose comes from the word oreinak, which means deer. How did we come to be using it? The story is fascinating. The Basques came to fish in the St. Lawrence River before the arrival of Jacques Cartier, Champlain and the French. They met the Innu from the Lower North Shore. They came to fish, stopped on the beach and spent time with the Innu. They talked and traded. Just imagine.
Imagine them sitting and eating on the beach, somewhere around Blanc‑Sablon or further north. My colleague from Manicouagan would know more about that. Imagine that one day a moose walked out of the forest. The Innu surely had a word for moose. They have been here for 20,000 years, so they certainly had a word for moose. There was probably a Basque man who called it an oreinak, or something like that. I can imagine it. This story comes from Serge Bouchard, but it is really interesting to think about. The Innu adopted the word oreinak, which transformed into orignal, the French word for “moose”. When Champlain arrived 200 or 300 years later, he had never seen a moose before. The Innu he met told him that it was called an orignal, a moose. It is fascinating. History is so rich and incredible. Who wants that to disappear? Who wants to lose that? Who wants to lose this rich history?
The word bécosses is part of our history. I do not know if anglophones will get the reference. The word bécosses, which means “outhouse”, is part of the vernacular in Quebec. It comes from the English word “back-house”. Way back when, people did their business in a small shed behind the house. This is important stuff. It is part of Quebec's history.
There are so many fascinating elements to that story. A carpenter once told me that when toilets started to be installed indoors, they were elevated. That is why they were called “the throne”. There was a time when people were proud to show that they had a toilet inside their home instead of in a shed out back. It was important to them. It was social progress of a sort to go from the “back-house” to “inside the house”, so to speak. In effect, it was like a throne.
We chuckle at the word bécosses, but it tells a story. We use it because of anglophones. The anglophones came along 200 years ago, conquered us, won on the Plains of Abraham, and we have been stuck with them ever since. It is what it is.
In short, culture speaks. We share it and we want that to continue. What peoples of the world would want to see their culture disappear? Who would want to lose that? Who does not want their children to speak their language? Who does not want their children to remember where they come from, where their ancestors come from, what their history is and what I just described? That is a part of who we are. It is extremely important. It defines us. We cannot unravel that.
These meetings occurred with the Innu and with the people who were here when we arrived, and when the anglophones arrived. Now, there is immigration from everywhere in the world and each new arrival enriches us. However, in Quebec, we must succeed in making the French language the meeting place par excellence and the place where we all connect. It is really extraordinary when we think about it.
I do not have much time left. I am going to treat myself. I brought a copy of the book L'homme rapaillé by Gaston Miron. The last time I spoke—