In the confessional of Québec.

When Alfred Hitchcock directed his 1953 film I Confess in Québec City, he had problems getting cooperation from the Archdiocese of Québec, until he had the ending of the movie rewritten. The church officials did not want it to end with the hanging of a priest. Hitchcock’s rewrite spoiled the movie. And the performance he got from method actor Montgomery Clift did not win him many kudos.

What was fascinating about the movie was Hitchcock’s trademark use of the historic narrow streets of Lower Town to build suspense. It was almost a dance as you saw people walking on those cobblestones. Also, what you saw was the end of an era. Many of the extras filmed by Hitchcock were wearing ecclesiastical garments.

It took until 1960 for the start of Québec’s Quiet Revolution. Maurice Duplessis and his Union National had played out a rearguard action in support of the Catholic hierarchy and the Jean Lesage liberals brought in the revolution. It spelled the end of the power of the Roman church in the province but not the bigotry it had built up over many years. The Anglos were still the bad guys, even though the church was the past. And the nastiness to Jews and ‘Others’ continued. If it were not for the youth of the province and their forcing more openness, the province would be a moribund backwater on the North American scene.

Over the years, I have come to think of Québec politically as four distinct regions. The fastest growing and most progressive is Montreal/ Laval. That is the future of Québec. The past is represented by the Québec City region, but let me tell you, it has wonderful restaurants and a great night-life. I do not know Chicoutimi, Jonquiére and Trois Riviére as well but I think of that region as the real Québec. The fourth area is the Outaouais (and I always load my car trunk with inexpensive French wines when visiting Gatineau). The Outaouais enjoys the reality of being part of Canada and the federal government jobs. The region has done very well by it.

But the most serious myopia in Québec is in the National Assembly in Québec City. The assembly, under François Legault’s right-wing CAQ, forced through their bigoted Bill 21, forbidding religious symbolism in dress for many people in positions of authority, just before they shut down for the summer. They are thumbing their noses at Quebecer Justin Trudeau and his liberals in Ottawa, defying them to overrule the crude gesture so close on an election.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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