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Jean-François Lisée June 10, 2012
PHOTO CAPTION: Do you feel intimidated by this artist who promotes violence?
Assuredly, we don’t hear much of value from the members Charest’s government, especially these days. But we can’t silently let pass the recent diatribe from the Minister of Culture — of Culture! — against one of the most remarkable talents contemporary Quebec has produced: Fred Pellerin. In addition to being a storyteller, poet and songwriter, Pellerin is able to translate his imaginary into images and export the extreme québécois singularity that he incarnates to the whole of La Francophonie. What’s more, he is a progressive, ecologist, indépendentiste and has leant his name and renown to many causes, whose common denominator is at odds with the Charest government. That is why he made clear, without a trace of aggressivity, that he prefered not to accept the Order of Quebec in the current climate:
“I was touched, to say the least. I was bowled over with pride. (…) I am honoured, to the point where the hair on my arms is standing on end. (…) They were going to pin a bit of brilliance to by jacket, in the name of the Quebec people. My people. But this people, whom I am asked to honour as a member of the Order, currently finds itself plunged into a remarkable social crisis. I could not forgive myself if I were to celebrate and toast the honour of this people in the present context, while the very foundations of our democracy are being shaken.” When you receive such a letter from someone you wish to honour, you accept it in silence, especially if you have a bit of culture and decency. But here’s the sting that Christine St-Pierre served up for the poet: “He has the right to wear the red square, everyone has the right to free expression, but we know what the red square means: it means intimidation, violence, and people blocking others from going to school. For us, that’s what it means and for the big, big, big majority of Quebecers, that’s what it means.” We might have expected the minister of agriculture or public safety to offer up such idiocies, and simply shrugged our shoulders. But when former journalist Saint-Pierre, whose mandate is to work alongside the artisans of Quebec culture and, therefore, to understand their sensibilities —without necessarily sharing them— gives a lecture that it so truncated, so narrow, and, in a word, so outside the significance that hundreds of artists and hundreds of thousands of Quebeckers attribute to this red square, that is beyond our understanding. That she should dare to equate the kind sensitivity of Fred Pellerin with “violence” and “intimidation” is an insult to the man, and to the intelligence and function of the Minister of Culture. For the word “inculture,” the Larousse dictionary says: ‘Lack of intellectual culture.’ It would therefore be timely that a deputy put forward a motion to change the title of Mme Saint-Pierre’s ministry.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.