Saturday, November 6, 2010

 

YIN AND YANG IN NEW FRANCE

As with all things in the natural world, contrary forces become frequently interconnected and interdependent. In the concept of yin-yang the complementary opposites often interact within the greater whole.

There is long, sometimes bitter, and much history between France and Canada dating as far back as the 16Th Century with the arrival of the first settlers to the colonies of the new world. More than 500 years later their impact remains in the vibrant North American French language culture firmly anchored in the province of Quebec, and preserved to a degree by the bilingual nature of Canada's national institutions.

Ironically, France's thirty year struggle to solve and come to terms with a terrorist attack on its homeland will reach all the way to Canada's federal capital over the next few days. On Friday, October 3, 1980 a motorcycle bomb blasted a Paris synagogue injuring and killing a total of about 45 people. French authorities believe a Canadian, Hassan Diab, is responsible. Born in Lebanon and educated in Syracuse, New York; Professor Diab taught Sociology at the University of Ottawa until his arrest in 2008. France's demands to extradite Hassan Diad will be adjudicated in a hearing which begins on Monday in an Ottawa court.

From the time of the great wars of the 20Th Century (perhaps before) and certainly through the frequently acerbic, bitter, gut wrenching and sadly occasionally violent struggles of the independence movement in Quebec; relations have sometimes strained between France and Canada. Yin and Yang are often described in the same way: Shadowy places trade with the brightly lit as the sun moves across the sky in the passage of time.

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ceded all of New France to Britain except for a group of small islands, the Territorial Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon about 15 miles off Canada's far eastern coast. The islands are France's only remaining possessions in North America. Now the territory says it survival may depend on much closer cooperation with the Atlantic Provinces, especially with bilingual New Brunswick, in matters of health care, social services and economic development.

It seems as with many other matters about the relationship with France; the territory has often been a thorn in the side of Canadian authorities. In 1992, a maritime boundary dispute over fishing rights had to be settled by binding arbitration. In recent months, France has laid claims to an even larger swath of seabed to gain exploration rights to the energy resources at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Economically, Saint Pierre and Miquelon have suffered dramatically from the collapse of the Cod fishery. It's a far cry from the 13 year economic boom locals still talk about, which was fuelled by the period of "Prohibition" in the United States from 1920 to 1933. That's when the territory was the prominent base for alcohol smuggling through the American northeast from Washington, through New York, Boston and just about everywhere else in between. The issue led to a level of discomfort within the U.S. Administration particularly after Franklin D. Roosevelt became President in 1933. It deepened to lasting distrust in December 1941 when, without the consent of, nor consultation with Canada or the United-States, Free-French forces commanded by Charles de Gaulle took control of the islands and installed a sympathiser as Governor.

Lest I digress: President Roosevelt knew the area well having himself been raised on Campobello Island in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of New Brunswick. Ironically, FDR chose another rum-running haven for his own secret World War II confabs with Winston Churchill a month later in January 1942 at the then notorious "Cap's Place" a beached barge in Hillsboro Inlet, Lighthouse Point, Florida. General de Gaulle was never invited to any of those meetings.

The claim is that time heals most ailments. The centuries long turbulent relationships about the territories of "New France" in all their permutations over the last 500 years may be the exception to the rule.

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