Tuesday, July 7, 2009

René Levesque In A Skirt?

I finally got around to watching a recorded TV version of the Fete Saint Jean parade which was held on the June 24th.

For most anglos, attending the parade is not high on the things-to-do-before-you-die list. The parade is so far out in the east end of Montreal that those of us who would wish to attend would need to pack a suitcase.

The short parade (1 hour) clearly suffers from a lack of sponsorship, it's plainly evident that there aren't too many companies keen to be identified with what is clearly a nationalist/sovereignist manifestation. The only sponsors I could make out (aside from the state monopolies) were Amaro water and Labatt's beer. It made for an amateurish and decidedly lame affair.

Now before I go on to critique the parade unfavourably, let me state clearly that the Canada Day Parade is every bit as lame.

Montreal is a one parade town, nothing beats the St. Patrick's Day parade, a magnificent display of real inclusiveness, one that turns every Montrealer, Irish for a day. The massive parade is so popular that there's a waiting list to join. There is no finer parade in Canada and the fete Saint Jean parade pales in comparison.

But I digress, back to the Fete Saint Jean parade. The 'defile" is centered around 'giant' personalities from Quebec history, standing some 5 meters high. The lack of an engineering budget forced the 'géants' to be enrobed with a skirt-like covering to hide the propulsion device (feet?). This wasn't a problem for the female representations, but René Levesque in a skirt was a bit 'outre.' On the other hand Saint Patrick looked great in his priestly attire and was clearly the best of these floats.

As someone who as a young lad was deathly frightened of Santa Claus and utterly horrified at the banshee-like laugh of the Fat Lady of Belmont Park, I couldn't help wonder if these garish effigies would somehow have the same effect on children. Perhaps not, kids are more sophisticated today.

At any rate, the most positive thing I can say, is that the crowd was large and ready to cheer just about anything that came by. As for it's make-up, it's hard to tell from the TV, as the commentators were quick to interview any brown or black face that they could find, thus validating the parade's theme-"My separatist parade is inclusive!"

Marching between the géants were groups of mostly teenagers, marching, dancing or otherwise presenting various talents. They could have used a dress rehearsal and the best that can be said, is that they all deserve an 'A' for effort.

By far, the gayest display most artistic display was a group of synchronized swimmers who performed a land version of their routine. Check out the moves of the guy members of the troupe in the video below.

Then there was this 'float' which seemed to be celebrating graffiti art.

The newest 'géant' of Canadiens legend Maurice Richard was certainly impressive. No skirt for the Rocket! The artists who created this 'géant', by accident or design, certainly got his famous flashing eyes right, but the 'Rocket' looked a little out of uniform without the famous C-H on his chest. I don't know why it was omitted, perhaps because it represented 'Canadiens' or problems with permissions from the hockey club. Dunno, but it looked a bit retarded. At least the guys schlepping the trailer had the right jersey on.

I wouldn't have added a picture of the 'Human Flag', a guy who gave a male version of a pole-dance, except for the fact that I saw someone at the Canada Day celebration in Ottawa do the exact same act, one week later. Sheesh, it wasn't that good the first time.

Bringing up the rear was a line of dignitaries, marching behind a blue ribbon. The regular cast of sovereignists were there, including Mario Beaulieu of the Societe Saint-Jean Baptiste (the guy who wanted to kick out the 2 anglo bands.)
Françoise David and Amir Khadir of the ultra sovereignist Québec solidaire party, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois and our old friend Bernard Landry. Other staunch defenders of the faith attending were Gérald Larose (longtime unionist militant) and Maka Kotto from the PQ (adding a little colour).

The parade wended its way to Maisonneuve Park where the real talent was presented that evening. I guess it all comes down to budget. The show, aside from host Guy A. Lepage's crude separatist missives was entertaining and showcased some of Quebec's most important artists.

For anglos, the best part of the day was the fantastic weather and for those of us who stayed in town, it was a great day for a backyard barbecue!

1 comment:

  1. Actually, the "C" in the Canadiens' logo does not stand for "Canadiens", I've heard. The official name of the club is the "Club de Hockey Canadien" and the "C" supposedly stands for "club." Which means if the team ever changes its name to the Montréal Habitantes or the Montréal Quebecois, they don't need to change their logo as well.

    It's more likely that the organizers didn't have time to finish the giant. I can't imagine that the Canadiens wouldn't give them permission not to use the "CH" logo considering the backlash that would create with their francophone fans.