Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lament for Montreal's Dorchester Boulevard

Here's an interesting piece written by one Peter Stuart, a reader from Quebec City who wrote a letter that was printed in the Quebec City daily Le Soleil.
The piece entitled "No Levesque without Dorchester" (Pas de Lévesque, sans Dorchester...) decries the fact that Montreal's Dorchester Boulevard had it's name changed in favour of 'Boulevard René-Lévesque" and provides some historical context.

I have endeavoured to translate the letter as best I can, but not being professional, it may seem a bit choppy. I assure you that the original letter in French is skillfully and poetically written, please read it in French if you can;

It seems that principal theme of the Moulin à paroles event was "the survival of a people." But survival from whom, and how exactly?

We tend to put all the blame on the backs of English.
But hold it!
René Lévesque would never have had the chance to save the French language with his PQ government, if not for a British Lord, Dorchester, who guaranteed the rights of French Canadians by way of the Quebec Act in 1774.

He wasn't even English, rather an Irish Protestant. He was part of the small Irish Protestant nobility, that was, at the time called, "the Irish ancestry."
These people were the principle landowners of Ireland, and allies of the English.

Dorchester recognized the error which had been committed during the English conquest of his country, the attempt to assimilate the Irish and to destroy their language and culture. Arriving in Canada, he promised himself not to commit the same error.
Skillfully adept in the language of Molière, (French-ed.) he proceeded with the preparation of the Parliamentary bill which shares it's name with our province- the 'Quebec Act.'

This bill, passed in the English Westminster Parliament ensured that we could continue to speak our language, maintain our property rights, as well as keep our religion.
Dorchester recognized that the Anglo-American colonies were on the brink of a revolution, and they probably would send an army to 'persuade' us to join them.

What would have become of our language, our civilization and our culture had Dorchester not done what he did?

What would have happened if French-Canadian troops had not managed to repel the American invaders at the rue de la Barricade, when attacked, December 31, 1775?
Surely, we would never have the opportunity to comment on anything, because our people would have been absorbed in the great American Republic.

So I find it sad that Montrealers have erased the memory of Lord Dorchester, and replaced it by that of René Lévesque. Why not keep faith with history and honour the two? Because René Lévesque could never do what he did for us without Dorchester.

Today, we still have a 'Dorchester' street here in Quebec City. Also a street named 'Couronne'('Crown'-ed.). And in passing "Roi' and "Reine' ('King' and 'Queen'-ed.), by the way!
The windbags at the Moulin à paroles talked of survival and droned on about the English, but think of one Irishman who preceded us, over two hundred years and who allowed us to short circuit the petty imperialists.

I believe that "ti-hair' of New Carlisle (nickname for Rene Levesque-ed.), would agree with me.
The writer may not know that when the city of Montreal changed the name of Dorchester Boulevard to 'René-Lévesque' they asked the city of Westmount to also make the change on the portion of the street that runs through that municipality.

As you can imagine, naming a street (or anything else for that matter) in honour of a separatist is would be an anathema for the grand daddy of Anglo communities.

And so, the name Dorchester Boulevard lives on in Westmount, much to the consternation of sovereignist groups who for some reason take the city's refusal to change the name as some sort of Anglophone slight.
The street signs have been defaced on occasion and as in the case on the picture on the right pasted over to read 'Boul. René-Lévesque'


  1. It wasn't until the City of Montreal had already decided to change the name that someone remembered that Dorechester also ran through Westmount.
    May Cutler, Westmount Mayor had a few choice words for Michael Fainstat, Chair of the City's Executive Committee during a phone call.

  2. Informative and factual. One gets weary of the incessant bleating of French jingoists.