Onion Skin #3: The Spiritual Warrior

3246829946_f0be6eee34_oIn my previous blog, I outlined my “Call of Duty” in becoming a “citizen soldier” through a personalized socialization process with three guiding core values: Integrity, Excellence and Service. The professional manifestation of integrity through my distinctive career path has already been illustrated; this layer of onion skin titled, “The Spiritual Warrior” will address the significance of excellence and service to my socialization process.

As a “citizen soldier”, with one foot in the Canadian Forces and another in my civilian profession as a CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant), I would go to work at PwC dressed in a business suit and equipped with a laptop slung across my shoulders. After a long day’s work on certain weeknights and almost every second weekend, I would trade the business suit in for combat fatigues and arm myself with a rifle instead of a laptop.

But, in order to successfully assist to my “Call of Duty” as a “citizen soldier”, it was essential that a healthy balance between my professional, as well as, my personal growth be maintained and that the core values of integrity, service and excellence be integrated in all facets of my life. On November 21, 2010, The Globe and Mail published an article titled, “Best companies bridge the generation gap” where I was interviewed on the details surrounding my ‘Call of Duty’ and the work-life balance required in order to pursue both passions. The article ends with the following:

“Mr. Di Carlo, who […] hopes to one day participate in a United Nations mission, says PwC’s flexible work program helped him achieve the right work-life balance, and he won’t give that up. Being in the military complements the values of the firm and of the profession – honesty, integrity and duty to my country. I try to pursue the truth and communicate the truth in both.’”

3246111730_3f6edf8769_oOn a personal level, I made arrangements in order to keep me steadfast on the path and internalize all aspects of the aforementioned core values for assistance in all aspects of my life as a “citizen soldier”. I turned to my foundation in martial arts by view of its maintenance of a system of ethics, honour, as well as, pursuit of excellence in the form of self-mastery through harmonization of mind, body and soul. Throughout the time working out for the physically and mentally demanding Infantry Officer courses, I would train my mind and soul while actively listening to “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu; “The Art of Living” by William Hart (based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha), in addition to, “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama, off of my smartphone. I would digest and reinterpret the teachings of “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu who, among other things, stated that, “So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.” I once then asked myself, “As a ‘citizen soldier’ who is (are) the enemy(ies) that I must become familiar with? Moreover, what is (are) the weapon(s) of choice that I can use to fight my battles?

Through my Infantry Officer professional courses with the Canadian Forces, I became acquainted with Canada’s traditional enemies and the arsenal the Canadian Army has at its disposition in order to defend itself and its values. But were these the only type of enemies that I was confronted with? Was this all the arsenal that was made available to me?

It was through my study of Buddhism that I encountered the concept of the “spiritual warrior” meaning a person who bravely battles with the universal enemy, self-ignorance; the ultimate source of suffering according to Buddhist philosophy. Their main battle is the mastery of themself in order to overcome personal desire, moral issues, and all weaknesses of character. A “spiritual warrior” is someone who embraces a journey of self-discovery in order to benefit others, as well as, enlighten themself. In essence, it is someone who abides by the mantra “Know thyself”.

Therefore, if we go back to the questions, “Who is the enemy that I must become familiar with according to Sun Tzu?” and “What is the weapon of choice that I use to fight my battles?”, through the eyes of the “spiritual warrior”, the “enemy” is “self-ignorance” and the weapon of choice to battle the “enemy” is to “Know thyself”.

The path of the “spiritual warrior” is one that I have been on since graduating from university throughout my journeys of self-discovery. I physically, emotionally and spiritually travelled into the religious dilemmas of the Middle East; the cultural interconnectedness of the Americas especially witnessed through my travels across the continent of South America; the historical importance of various cities in Western Europe, on top of, the past and present political realities of South Asia. I did not know it at the time but, those trips allowed me to discover new cultures and lands, along with, who I was and my place in my community, my country and the world.

The path of the “spiritual warrior” is a personal one where each person is solely responsible for “walking the path” the way they see fit. I chose a socialization process that craved me to deeply inhale integrity in order to nurture my morally upright life that I desired. It compelled me to perform acts in selfless service while, in turn, pursuing a life of excellence through the bottomless quest into self-mastery.

In the end, the “Call of Duty” that I heeded as a “citizen soldier” was actually the hail to the battle call of becoming a “spiritual warrior” and the commencement of my path towards becoming a UN Peacekeeper. My “path” since its discovery can be summarized in the following quote by Dag Hammarskjöld, United Nations Secretary General who authorized the creation of the first UN Peacekeeping Unit the UNEF,

“But the explanation of how man should live life of active social service in full harmony with himself as a member of the community of spirit, I found in the writings of those great medieval mystics for whom ‘self-surrender’ had been the way to self-realization, and who in ‘singleness of mind’ and ‘inwardness’ had found strength to say yes to every demand which the needs of their neighbours made them face, and to say yes also to every fate life had in store for them when they followed the call of duty as they understood it.”

The final blog will be titled, “The Golden Rule” where the roots of my “Call of Duty” as I understood it, via my core values of integrity, service and excellence, will be traced to my upbringing.


Trudeaumania alive and well

The Cape Breton Post

GLACE BAY — The second generation of Trudeaumania was evident in Glace Bay,  Thursday.
Justin Trudeau, son of late former prime minster Pierre Elliott Trudeau, caused a stir at Glace Bay High School.
After addressing and answering questions from the students, he spent a half hour in front of flashing cellphone cameras, shaking hands and signing autographs.

“He’s a wonderful  person, making such a difference in the world,” said Grade 10 student Cassie MacDonald.

“For him to come here and talk to us, it’s an honour.”

Trudeau, MP for the Papineau Riding in Montreal, was accompanied by Rodger Cuzner, MP for Cape Breton-Canso. He also visited the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi Campus and spoke at a fundraising dinner for the Cape Breton-Canso Liberal riding at the Bayplex.

With rumblings of a fall federal election call, Trudeau said he’s optimistic about the  future of the Liberal party.

“I am extremely optimistic we will do really well if there is an election call, he said. “Canadians are hungry to believe in something bigger.”

He said this current government is focusing on “what’s better for me now” rather than focusing on the future.

“I was raised on Canadians’s ability to step up and do more, to be part of something bigger. That’s why I am in politics, that’s why I am very optimistic about this fall.”

Trudeau said politics “is not reaching out to young people effectively.”

“It is not about a flashy ad campaign or the right kinds of spokespeople to make it cool. It is thinking about the kinds of things that will get the young people involved in the big issues and the long-term programs.”

When addressing the GBHS students, he told them that at assemblies and graduations they always hear they are the “leaders of tomorrow.”
“I hate that ’cause you are not — and won’t be —unless we give you the tools to be the leaders today, right now,” he said. “Leadership is unconditional, being relevant, mattering to your community, your family, your friends, your co-workers. The things you do right now to shape the world around you, the things you chose to fight for, the way you want to shape the planet, to make the future, is really all that matters.”

Students asked Trudeau many questions about his plans for the future and about his father.

Colin O’Neill, a Grade 11 student, said it was a powerful for him to meet Trudeau.

“I think we owe him a lot because of what his father did for this country. He did so many great things that got us to where we are today.”

PART IV: The campaign trail, election night 2008 and beyond

The Campaign Trail


There was so much energy in the air throughout the weeks of the campaign. The campaign staff was dedicated to a cause larger than themselves and their enthusiasm definitely spread to the numerous volunteers that revolved the campaign office doors on 7217 rue Saint-Denis. The riding was on alert – a Trudeau, and the eyes of both nations – were on Papineau. It did not take long, especially after Justin’s bilingual campaign video, for the election to be divided almost entirely on federalist and separatist sentiments. This resulted in multiple visits to the campaign office by overtly disturbed members of the Papineau riding with the presence of a Trudeau, as well as, an organized visit by the Jeunes Patriotes du Québec on September 24th, 2008 chanting “Pas de Trudeau en Papineau”.


October 14th, 2008 – Election Day


Since I wanted to make this election memorable and since I was personally invested in the election, I wanted to experience how the Canadian Federal Election machine worked (in order to find ways on how to introduce technological advancements in order to increase voter turnout and citizen political participation – topic for a later date), I was a poll clerk for Polling Station 018A, the polling station located in l’école secondaire Joseph-François Perrault that my family and I have always voted in.


It was an interesting day to say the least. The representatives for the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals were there all day and both were blaming each other for possible breaches in Elections Canada procedures. Both Justin Trudeau and Vivian Barbot made a presence at the polling station demonstrating its importance but one thing was missing – the voters. If I remember correctly, it was the lowest turnout in a Federal Election.


And the future looks grim in my polling station since a significant number of voters were elderly and/or retired. I saw many families (mostly newly arrived immigrants that have been awarded the right to vote, come together and vote). I saw many people on the registry where only one or two members of the family (according to last names and civic addressed) presented themselves and whole families were absent from the ballot.


After my ballot boxes were counted and my results report were handed in, I headed directly to Justin’s campaign office to follow the national elections results. By the time I got there, it was clear that the Conservative Party of Canada were going to win but that they have lost some of their support in Quebec. The Papineau riding was still not declared as red or blue and it remained that way until past midnight. In the backrooms, the campaign staff were working hard crunching the numbers and analyzing trends. The packed room was getting impatient but not really for the delay in seeing Justin enter (since he did not arrive yet) that day but to celebrate in his, and their, victory.


Finally, with a consistent margin of approximately 1,000 votes (with the final being 1,230) Justin gave his victory speech to his volunteers, media, family and friends – the nation. As I stood at the front right hand side of the stage, I looked around the room and must have seen a face from almost every race found in Montreal. It was a democratic mosaic waiting to be exposed to the rest of the nation.


When Justin stepped away from answers the media’s questions, he was confronted with a wave of enthusiasm that sent me backwards. There were members that came to him running, pulling on his arms, as he tried making his way to the back of the room for televised interviews looking up at him and shouting, “You can do it Justin!”, “Don’t forget us!” “Make us proud!” The belief in that room that day that one person can and will make the difference that they need to see in order to have a better life in Papineau was mind-blowing.


But, I do believe that throughout the campaign, with the culmination leading to that night, Justin absorbed the expectations of his members, and residents, of the Papineau riding and the energy and motivation that such a support can generate for its team. I will never forget that night. Je me souviens the night my riding came alive.




Justin won Papineau on his own, and in my opinion, with little outright help from the Federal Liberal Party’s leadership and/or its forerunners. I know that in many cases, Justin actually got deserted by usual bases of volunteer support in the provincial and national parties because they believed he didn’t need it because he was TRUDEAU! Liberal membership campaigns and door-to-door blitz’s, which were organized weeks in advance with a significant confirmation of support from reliable support groups, ended up being just a handful at best.


One of the most memorable quotes from these past two years must have been when a reporter on election night next to me asked Justin what his father would have said to him now that he have entered politics. Justin replied that his father would have been proud that he had done it his way!


In the meantime, Saint-Michel continues to be my home. I love the fact that it is not uncommon to see a devout North African or South Asian Muslim, after Friday prayer, exiting their ‘mosque’ located in the basement of the once vibrant manufacturing buildings (where my grandmother used to work in when she first arrived here) along Papineau’s main artery – the Trans-Canada Highway (or as we Montrealers call it, “La Métropolitaine” or “The Met”). Neither is it uncommon to walk around a Sunday morning with incense, organ playing and church bells occupying the silence of thousand year old Catholic and Orthodox rituals celebrated in Italian and Greek with the majority of their spectators born in the ‘old country’ with the words ‘Ora Pro Nobis’ (‘Pray for Us’) hanging over their heads … this is where I am from … I love being able, within the same building, drop my clothes off at a Haitian-run dry cleaners; buy the newspaper at the Vietnamese dépanneur and peak into the Dominican hair salon and see them performing their ‘magic’ … this is where I am from!


Canadians from all parts of the country, “Once more into the breach, dear friends” and come join us because the battle is still being fought is going down in Papineau. It is not a conventional war, like the ones we have lived through, the Quebec Referendum wars of 1980 and 1995, the Kitchen Accord, Meech Lake Accord, and Charlottetown Accord wars. It is a war of hearts!



PART III: Working the terrain in Papineau

Working the terrain in Papineau


Je me souviens that on March 2, 2008 a group of volunteers (including myself) and Justin went door-to-door in order to get to know the members of Papineau (most notably around Poll 132 and 151). As teams of 2 – 3 volunteers spanned the streets; Justin ran back and forth between us.


It came to a moment in the day where Justin and I were visiting a quasi-apartment building / quint-plex together. I rang the doorbell for the first apartment, where I would have normally been alone introducing myself and the Liberal Party and then asking if they were interested in meeting their Federal Liberal candidate from their riding: Justin Trudeau. If they were interested I would ask them by what time would be the latest he could pass by and then transfer that information to him and he would go and visit.


On this occasion, Justin was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, slightly hidden from view, as I approached the apartment and the man who answered my doorbell ring. I realized that the man began to seem annoyed by my presence. I asked him if he wanted to meet Justin and the man turned red. He called Justin’s dad, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, a traitor and a disgrace to all Québécois – all while Justin was in earshot but out of view. I tried to calm the man down by telling him that Justin is not his father and that he has policies and ideas of his own. Ideas that he might be inclined to support if he allowed Justin talk to him. The man completely brushed the sheer idea of meeting and answered with the certainty as if the sun will rise tomorrow, “It doesn’t matter because he has treachery in his blood” while exposing his stiffened right inner forearm from his tightly clenched fist and running his left index and middle fingers over its veins.


I met many Québécois nationalist that day and it was difficult when they turned me down when they stereotyped me as a typical federalist. I saw the passion in their eyes and the pains of the past in their hearts. Like embers after a huge St. Jean Baptiste Day bonfire, over the battlegrounds of the Plains of Abraham, they cannot be easily put out except with a sense of integration without assimilation, mutual respect and genuine curiosity in one another’s cultures, languages and people.


After my trip to the Middle East (Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Egypt) and Europe (Italy, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England) during August / September of 2008, I found a real need to become involved in my riding (see excerpt below from my final journal entry blog “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”):


[…] the ability (or inability) to coexist in various cultural situations was important as well. This is one of the main reasons for those two legs has been the study of historical and contemporary investigations of struggles, revolutions and occupations. This ‘investigation’ actually began June 24th, 2008 when Sacha and I went to Quebec City to witness the 400th anniversary of the founding of Tadoussac settlement on the Plains of Abraham (the location where General Wolfe [English Army] defeated Montcalm [French Army]. The event marks the historical struggle between these two cultures with each other and with respect to the Aboriginal people across Canada up to the period that affected my life: the culmination to the Quiet Revolution and its aftermath. Born in 1980, I was introduced to a city, a province, a nation, a people and a country with Pierre Elliot Trudeau and René Lévesque as my strict biological father and my loving step-father, respectively.


I am a child of the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but I am also Québécois. But who are my parents? Who were they? Who are they now? What’s my family’s coat of arms? Is it time to change it? […]


[…] I discovered on this journey that Canada is a wonderful country at the turn of the 21st century. Great opportunities and very well respected around the world. As I traveled, my passport and I have been greeted with nothing less than the utmost respect for our country and its citizens. Unfortunately, I have noticed that the underlying fabric that makes us stand out in the world is being dyed a different tone. I feel that I need to assist in whichever way possible at the moment. […]


[…] And yes, I think for the first time in my life I can actually say that, “I am Canadian” without feeling that I am relinquishing the fact that I am Italian, Venezuelan, Spanish, Trinidadian, African and especially Québécois, as well. I believe a Canadian identity is being formed in me and once I can define it, I will make sure to share it with others. […]      


                                                                                                September 15th, 2008

Heathrow Airport – London


Upon my return, I joined Justin’s campaign.

PART II: And then there was Justin – 18 months before the campaign

And then there was Justin – 18 months before the campaign


I remember how I felt on April 27th, 2007 like it was yesterday. For the past 8 years of my life, since I made the switch from pursuing a career in the sciences as a meteorologist to ‘something’ in the Human Sciences, I have been either following various levels of political (municipal, provincial and international) or involved in politics at a lower level like President of the Vanier College Students’ Association and Vice-President (Finance & Operations) of Students’ Society of McGill University. But having Justin Trudeau running for the candidature of the Liberal Party for the riding of Papineau, my riding, was more than enough to draw me out that day.


By then, I had been aware of Justin for approximately 8 years as well. Like many Canadians of my generation, Justin was introduced to us at a sad moment in Canadian history: while offering the eulogy at his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s funeral at Notre-Dame Basilica in 1999 (Justin Trudeau Eulogizes His Father, Pierre: Part 1 and Justin Trudeau Eulogizes His Father, Pierre: Part 2). The next time I heard about him was throughout my time at McGill University from 2001 – 2005. Let’s just say that, like his father, Justin drew (and still draws) polarizing opinions about himself.


So, here you had a potential ‘rockstar’ political candidate, born and raised in 24 Sussex Drive, wanting to represent a working class / 3rd poorest riding in Canada. Back then, I was suspicious of his intentions with the riding – with Canadian politics in general.


I did not vote that day firstly due to the fact that I was not a member of the Liberal Party of Canada (or any party for that matter) and only pre-registered members were allowed. Secondly, I didn’t want to. I had approached the day as an observer. I observed the candidates as they made their way around Collège André-Grasset and spoke to the Federal Liberal members of the riding. I made sure to speak with none of them, not even shake their hand. I observed how the members of the riding reacted to the candidates especially, Justin (who for the only time since I began volunteering for him campaigned under the banner, “Trudeau”).  He had stiff competition with Mary Deros and Basilio Giordano and required all his resources to be aligned in order to win the way he needed to win. The members wanted to see “the name” in their riding again anyways.


I left that day before the ballots were counted. Sticking around in order to find out who won was not important. I left the volunteers at the door my contact information, letting them know that I am willing to help whoever won, and went home. It was only the following day, when I read the article “Trudeau wins Montreal riding nomination,”

“In the fall of 1965, he said, his father ran in the neighbouring Mount Royal riding, part of which is now included in the Papineau district.”

“Trudeau told voting members that some of them helped nominate his father who eventually gave Canada one of the most evolved tools for human rights in the world — the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“What you were part of 40 years ago changed Canada forever,” he said. “We are all children of the charter. You can understand how fiercely proud I am to be able to say that your prime minister was also my dad.”

“I’m a teacher; I’m a convenor; I’m a gatherer; I’m someone who reaches out to people and is deeply interested in what they have to say,” he said.

“And people see that I’m not faking it. I’m actually genuinely committed to this dialogue that we’re opening up, and this understanding that needs to happen in order to be an effective MP.”

I was able to relate to the sincerity of his message and decided he was at least worth an opportunity to prove himself.

PART I: Where am I from (À donde vengo yo)?



My blog is to keep people updated on Justin Trudeau’s political career in Ottawa, as well as, his work in Papineau. At the same time, I will bring my experiences from my life growing up in the riding and how it has influenced this “child of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”. Furthermore, it will be complimented with the historical moments that gave birth to this multiethnic generation, in English and French Quebec as well as English and French Canada.


Where am I from (À donde vengo yo) – backgrouund

The federal riding of Papineau, which includes the neighbourhoods of Villeray, Park Extension, and parts of Saint-Michel, is located in the central part of the Island of Montreal and contains part of the city of Montreal bounded by:

·         SOUTHWEST: l’Acadie Boulevard

·         NORTHEAST: 19th Avenue

·         WEST: between Trans-Canada Highway, D’Iberville Street and Jarry Street East

·         EAST: Bélanger Street, Papineau Avenue, Jean-Talon Street East.

According to the CBC and Decision Canada, Papineau is the smallest federal riding in Canada. The riding has a mix of row housing, three-storey apartments, small shops, and Chabanel Street clothing manufacturers. The economy is based mainly on manufacturing, followed by retail trade and the service sector. According to the 2006 census, this riding has,

·         the lowest average family income in Canada at $50,681

·         an unemployment rate at 1 1.6%

·         a transient riding, and renters outnumber homeowners 74% to 26%

·         a total immigrant population is 40%

·         a visible minorities make-up 35%

·         residents over age 25 who have a university certificate or degree is at 22%.

Linguistically diversified as its ethnic make-up, the federal riding of Papineau’s “mother tongue” is just as complex:


  • French 45%
  • English 8%
  • Neither French nor English 47%
    • With significant constituencies speaking Italian, Haitian Creole, Greek, Arabic and Hispanic dialects, as well as, various South and Southeast Asian languages as their mother tongues.
    • French remaining the first language spoken at home by 51% of the population




Like a guardian angel / patron saint, Saint-Michel has and always will be a part of me. I was born one November alba in Hôpital Saint-Michel (Hospital) and grew-up in this neighbourhood all my life. I went to Saint Michael’s Elementary School – the same school that both dad and my late uncle Michael went to (my uncle was named after Saint Michael the Archangel, one of the most celebrated saints from my dad’s hometown of Pietracatella, Italy).


Saint Michael’s Elementary School was one of three elementary schools in less than 100 metres from one another. The other two schools were St-Damas and Ogilvy. St-Damas was an almost all French Canadian elementary school and Ogilvy was a French all-coloured elementary school. Both elementary schools had many more students than Saint Michael’s which made it quite interesting for school yard brawls. The only reason we were able to have been educated in English was due to the following clause in Bill 101,


a child whose father and mother are not Canadian citizens, but whose father or mother received elementary instruction in English in Quebec, provided that that instruction constitutes the major part of the elementary instruction he or she received in Quebec;”


Actually, there were so few students in our English elementary school that it closed at the end of my 5th Grade and we were moved to one (1) of two (2) other English Catholic (and mostly ethnically Italian of origin) elementary schools: Pierre Elliot Trudeau Elementary School (which is the former Emily Carr and Francesca Cabrini Elementary Schools and both located in the Papineau riding) and Saint Dorothy’s (the elementary school that I attended in the heart of Saint-Michel).


I read my first words at the Bibliothèque St. Michel with a small section reserved for English literature but also, where I read my first French book, Le Petit Prince. I played hockey for 6 years with “Les Cardinaux de Saint-Michel” at l’Aréna St. Michel and as for public transportation to and from high school, college and university, I would use metro St. Michel or take the 67 St. Michel Bus. As an Infantry Officer for the Canadian Forces Army Reserves, Saint Michael the Archangel is also my patron saint (patron saint of the warrior). Let’s just say, Saint Michael and I are close!





My teenage years in Papineau


Growing up in Saint-Michel during the early to mid-1990’s was tough. As beautiful it may be to live amongst other cultures and traditions, in recessionary times, these differences became walls for those who did not fall within the norms and matters – reverting, at times,  to “Lord of the Flies” conditions. And, it really sucks when one found themselves as a member of a minority, within a minority, within a minority:


  1. English speaking;
  2. 1st Generation Italo-Canadian
  3. 1st Generation Italo-Canadian with a Hispanic mother

I was “segregated” because I was not an FBI (Full Blooded Italian) nor accepted amongst the fragmented Hispanic communities (the “latinos”) who were majority French speaking due to the implications of Bill 101 (see reference above).

Perhaps it was due to the recession of the early 1990’s forcing both parents of low-income homes (see description under Justin Trudeau page – Papineau riding) to work and, as a result, spend less time with their children for proper surveillance and guidance. At the same time, West Coast American gang-glorifying music became more-and-more mainstream and inner city teenagers across North America (and some ‘hot spots’ in Western Europe) wanted to and/or tried to relate to the lyrics of the times and the actions of their composers. Or was it the fact that Saint-Michel was one of the major battlegrounds for the drug wars that were going on in the province (and beyond) between, most notably, the Hell’s Angels and the Rock Machines and their deep-rooted territorial presence in the neighbourhood’s affairs?


I am sure that there are many more reasons that can be listed but was it a causal relationship or just a matter of high correlated but independent variables – I don’t know! What I do know is that in consequence, Saint-Michel has been long viewed as one of Montreal’s most dangerous inner city neighbourhoods. Although these problems persist to this day, the phenomenon is much better controlled due to the effects of a generation of adolescents sent away to juvenile homes or just plainly, placed behind bars and their younger siblings learning from their brother and sisters mistakes.


The Origins of “Je me souviens”



The motto Je me souviens (I remember) replaced the slogan La belle province on Québec licence plates in 1978. The change was made without public debate as if it went without saying, but several Québecers asked themselves what they should actually remember. A vox pop by the Montreal Star revealed that Montrealers had very different interpretations about the Conquest, the response to the Durham Report, and even about the 1976 (Parti Québécois) victory.

By failing to furnish official documentation about the motto, the government surely contributed to the confusion. Who can recall the origin of this motto and the context of its appearance, around 1885, on the ornamental façade of the Hôtel du Parlement (Parliament Buildings) in Québec City? Yet, it is there that the meaning is found.

Origins of the motto

Eugène-Étienne Taché, the architect of the parliament building created the Québec motto. He was the son of United Canada’s former prime minister Étienne-Paschal, who was both a regional Patriot leader (1837), and a Father of Confederation. Taché, a land surveyor by training and a deputy minister of Crown Land, was a widely cultured man with a passion for architecture. He had made an impression on his fellow citizens and government authorities by designing a series of triumphal arches for the bicentenary of the Québec Diocese, and as astonishing as it might seem for someone who was self-taught, he received the mandate to draw up the plans for a new parliament building.

Taché was inspired by the Louvre’s architecture, especially the building’s expansion (1852-1857) that would become the model par excellence of Second Empire style. The Louvre was also a model civil palace whose statuary developped secular themes. When Taché suggested dedicating the Hôtel du Parlement’s façade to the memory of great national historic figures, he found that the government authorities, wishing to strengthen Québec’s identity, were in agreement. They wanted to support the Québécois society’s longstanding existence and its status as a founding nation. Therefore, when the façade’s first stone was laid in 1884, Lieutenant-Governor Théodore Robitaille gave this response to those who questioned whether the Québécois people were attached to their institutions and their autonomy: “Go and visit the public buildings in the capital, and you will see that the people of Québec wish to preserve this self-government won after a century of struggle and conflict.”

To embellish the main entrance, Taché selected the coat of arms granted to the province by Queen Victoria in 1868, to which he added a motto of his own invention: Je me souviens. It is that simple. The government accepted his plans, appended them to the construction contract signed in1883, and carried them out.

Not a single passage was found in which Taché explained the origins and significance of Je me souviens. He probably did not feel it necessary since his message was so simple and the motto’s meaning so obvious when placed in context. In a report to the deputy-minister of Public Works in April 1883, Taché gave an overview of “all the memories” that he wanted to evoke in the decor of the Hôtel du Parlement’s façade. The passage leaves no doubt as to the meaning of Je me souviens. Taché wanted to build a Pantheon to commemorate heroes in Québec’s history, and his motto asks Québecers to remember them.

Meaning of the motto

Appearing discretely on the façade, the motto became an integral part of Québec’s coat of arms as of the late 19th century (although the government did not trouble to seek Royal assent), and it officially took on the heraldic description of coat of arms in 1939 by simple government decree.

That Quebecers had adopted Taché’s motto since the late 19th century is shown in a speech by historian, politician and member of the legislative council Thomas Chapais, in 1895:

The province of Québec has a motto which it is proud of, and likes to engrave on the pediments of its monuments and palaces. This motto has only three words: Je me souviens, but these three words in their simple laconicism equal the most eloquent of speeches. Yes, we remember. We remember the past and its lessons, the past and its misfortunes, the past and its glory.

No public discussion about this motto has surfaced, and Taché’s contemporaries did not question its significance. Until the 1970s, documents consulted on the subject remained consistent despite the government’s never offering an official interpretation, and like Chapais, several writers recalled only general historical memories. In English Canada things were similarly vague: “[the] ancient lineage, traditions and memories of all the past” [sic] (Association of Ontario Land Surveyors, 1934) or “the glory of the Ancien Régime” (Colombo’s Canadian Quotations, first edition, 1974).

The other motto

However, after Je me souviens was inserted on licence plates, an explanation spread that had already circulated in some circles by word-of-mouth. It was probably elaborated upon by an open letter from Taché’s granddaughter published in the Montréal Star in 1978. The writer of this letter claimed that Je me souviens was the beginning of a longer motto: “Je me souviens/Que né sous le lys/Je croîs sous la rose. I remember/That born under the lily/I grow under the rose.”

This explanation worked its way into at least one dictionary of quotations (Colombo’s Canadian Quotations), government information banks, and particularly the English language media. Journalists from the Globe and theGazette did not miss out on exploiting the ironic and political meaning on licence plates, reminding Québecers that “they had flourished under the rose of England!”

However, it is now clearly established that the “poem” from which this “complete motto” derived did not exist, and that it was in fact a matter of two distinct mottos by the same person. Taché conceived the second (which reads precisely Née dans les lis, je grandis dans les roses/Born in the lilies, I grow in the roses) for a monument that in the end was not built, and he later used it on the medal for Québec’s tercentenery in 1908.

The most interesting witness on this matter is David Ross McCord (1844-1930), who commented on the two mottos in his Historical Notebook c. 1900.

However mistaken may be the looking towards France as a disintegrating factor operating against the unification of the nation – it may be perhaps pardonable – no one can gainsay the beauty and simplicity of Eugene Taché’s words Je me souviens. He and Siméon Lesage have done more than any two other Canadians towards elevating the architectural taste in the Province. Is Taché not also the author of the other motto – the sentiment to which we will all drink a toast: “Née dans les lis, je croîs dans les roses.” There is no disintegration there.

The evidence from the McCord Museum’s founder proves without a doubt that it really is a question of two distinct mottos. Furthermore, they do not have at all the same meaning. How then can we explain that they could be combined sometime between 1900 and 1978 and spread widely in an interpretation that did not correspond with Taché’s intentions? It remains a mystery.

The history of Québec’s motto was, all the same, remarkably simple. It originated from the individual initiative by the architect of the Hôtel du Parlement, and just asked Quebecers of all backgrounds to remember their history. Those who wanted to give it a vindictive meaning or use it in constitutional debates must be unaware that it had been engraved on the façade of the Hôtel du Parlement at the base of the statues of Wolf and Montcalm.

Justin on growing up Trudeau; Shares memories with Catherine Clark on lives as kids of PMs

Canada’s most famous political couple was madly in love, but Margaret Trudeau was never an “equal partner” in the life of husband and prime minister Pierre Trudeau, son Justin says.

With a tinge of bittersweet regret, Justin Trudeau suggests his parents’ marriage was done in by an insurmountable age difference.

“They loved each other incredibly, passionately, completely. But there was 30 years between them and my mom never was an equal partner in what encompassed my father’s life, his duty, his country,” Trudeau said.

“She was a partner in the child-rearing stuff and the family stuff but not in his full life,” Trudeau told CPAC’s Beyond Politics in a show that aired last night.

The program was noteworthy for another reason: The interviewer, Catherine Clark, is the daughter of former prime minister Joe Clark. During the interview, Trudeau and Clark shared fond memories about childhood experiences at 24 Sussex Dr., the prime minister’s official residence, and the country retreat at Harrington Lake.

Trudeau, elected an MP in October, seems determined to learn the lessons of his own parents’ marriage breakup, pledging that his wife, Sophie Gregoire, is a valued partner in his political life.

“That lesson for me is the one thing I try with Sophie. She’s extraordinarily insightful. “I wouldn’t be a very good politician if Sophie wasn’t in my life. Knowing that she knows that is what hopefully makes everything a lot easier in terms of the difficult times we’ll always go through, ” said Trudeau, MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau.

Conscious of the toll that political life exacts on family, Trudeau, 37, said he asks himself every week whether being an MP is worth it.

He is learning that the life of a politician in Ottawa – far from home and family – can be lonely. “It’s amazing how lonely a life Ottawa is. … You go home, you grab a slice of pizza, you make a bowl of cereal, try and watch a little TV and you go to sleep alone and wake up the next morning and go to work. ”

Trudeau said it’s “heartbreaking” to have to leave children Xavier, 20 months, and Ella-Grace, 5 months, behind at his Montreal home during the weeks he is in Ottawa.

“That’s the question I ask myself every week when I come home and see Xavier and I see my daughter and my wife, I ask myself was it worth it that you were away from them for four days. “So far, the work I’m doing, the things that I’m learning, the building that is going on is worth it,” he said. “The day that I think I’m not making that much of a difference … I’ll leave politics.”

Trudeau spoke about losing younger brother Michel, killed in a 1998 avalanche, and his father, who died in 2000, saying he feels their deaths every day. “I wish my kids would know my father,” Trudeau said. “I know he’s watching. I just can’t ask him for his opinion anymore.”

The new Trudeaumania

Pembroke got swept up in Trudeaumania, The Next Generation when Justin Trudeau, the son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, spoke at the Germania Club Hall Tuesday night.

About 270 Liberal party faithful filled the hall as the Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke Riding Association hosted an evening with Mr. Trudeau, the Member of Parliament for the Montreal riding of Papineau.

Arriving shortly after 6 p. m., he swept into the hall, taking time to greet Liberal party members before speaking to the media in advance of the dinner.

Mr. Trudeau said he was glad to be in Pembroke, an area he has driven through many times with a canoe on his car’s roof, headed to wilder places. He said he loved the area and was glad to visit in an official capacity this time.

While he did stray into a few partisan comments, Mr. Trudeau’s speech was generally full of vision and ideals.

He admitted, though, it was not about putting forward concrete proposals.

He said Liberal MPs are travelling throughout the country in order to get a sense of Canadians’ fears, dreams, hopes and concerns and to make sure that the Liberal party is listening to what they are saying.

Mr. Trudeau is passionate about engaging Canadian youth in politics.

“If we’re going to start looking at new solutions, looking at a different way of thinking that is going to balance our economy with our eco-systems, look at reducing conflict around the world, looking at dealing with poverty and marginalization here in Canada and around the world, we’re going to have to be bold in our thinking and young people bring in a capacity to think differently, to challenge their elders, to challenge their world and ask tough questions that all of us need to start answering,” he said.

“The more we get young people involved and connected and heard in politics, the more politics starts to change.”

He stated that the current trend of attack-based politics doesn’t help anyone.

“We’re getting away from the heart of the issues of people suffering because of (quick) decisions, or because of pinching pennies. The idea is we should be talking in politics about what is important, not just what is urgent or politically expedient. (We need to get) people involved, and feeling that politics can be about something important, and bigger than just the little gamesmanship that ends up on the front page of newspapers because we have to start talking about the real issues that we are facing,” he said.

He warned that currently the political realm is very divisive. Instead, he suggested it should be about bringing people together.

“That’s the only way we are going to get through some of the big challenges we are facing,” he said.

Throughout his comments and speech, Mr. Trudeau hammered home the message of connecting Canadians and connecting to Canadians.

“What really matters is what individual citizens bring in terms of change. That’s why community is so important,” he said.

He said the point of life is not about accumulating “stuff” but is simply knowing that each individual matters.

“To know that an individual is relative to their peer group, their family, to their community. To know the world is a slightly better place because you passed through it than it would have been had you never existed — is the basic requirement to truly feel accomplished and happy,” he said.

He added we are living in a world and a society that has forgotten that. He believes this has led to people living disconnected lives and looking out only for themselves.

He said Canadians, particularly those in politics, need to be forward thinking and put forward a plan for the future rather than hiding heads in the sand and relying on the same old solutions to current issues.

“Our values of openness, of respect for each other, of a willingness to work hard and readiness to be there if a neighbour is in difficulty — these are the things that define us, and make us a tremendously-successful country but that’s something that I suspect we’ve been forgetting recently,” he said.

He stated that being Canadian makes us luckier than 99.5 per cent of the rest of the world that isn’t Canadian, but with that luck comes responsibility.

“If we were given these advantages, if we worked hard to gain these advantages, then we need to say, ‘OK, what am I going to do with these advantages? How am I going to make sure that what we have is leveraged into something better for everyone.’ How are we making sure that Canada takes its role as a generator of solutions for the world,” he said.

The speech made by the charismatic MP resulted in a standing ovation from area Liberals.

Mr. Trudeau has an extensive background in youth work as well he is very involved with the Canadian Avalanche Foundation promoting intelligent risk taking and safety awareness, and wilderness groups such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Local riding association president Gail Richardson said that while the event was a fundraiser, “this evening is also a celebration for us here in Renfrew-Nipissing- Pembroke because we’re on the move and we’re growing. We’re very excited. We’ve got our new leader and we’re delighted to have Justin Trudeau here with us to represent the party and to help us as we move forward.”

A modest proposal Justin Trudeau

There are two issues that were foremost to me when I entered politics: the need to create a better balance between human civilization and the natural world that sustains it; and the need to get young people to value politics by getting politics to value young people. And to my mind, since the latter would be a powerful stepping stone to achieving the former, I chose to focus my first piece of legislation on youth.

The temptation was to go for broke. Demanding that this government implement this or create that would lead to being shot down, which would then result in rants that the Conservatives don’t care about young people. Easy politics, fun speeches to make, but fundamentally not why I chose to spend four or five days a week in Ottawa away from my family.

So I decided on a much more modest proposal. A motion to ask the Human Resources and Skills Development committee to study youth and volunteerism by looking at national service models around the world, by hearing from organizations and from young people themselves about their needs and desires, and then to hopefully write a report recommending a policy on national youth service for Canada.

The objective was to bring forward to Parliament a formal conversation on youth and service. This seemed a safe, constructive proposal, because no one could possibly object to merely talking about how we connect young people with their communities across this country.

“By refusing to open a conversation about our young people, the Bloc and Conservatives betray their fundamental lack of faith in our country’s ability to achieve greatness. ”— Liberal MP Justin Trudeau

How wrong I was. First, the Bloc weighed in, saying that even having a conversation about a national strategy on youth and volunteerism was an affront to Quebec’s jurisdiction over education. But really, they will object to anything that may lead to more young Quebeckers discovering the rest of Canada, and how well they fit in as builders of this entire country’s future. So as much as their small-mindedness is frustrating, at least they’re being ideologically consistent.

The real disappointment was when the Conservative Party rose to oppose this modest proposal. Why vote against talking about empowering our young people? Why vote against a process that might generate a creative way for organizations across the country to better serve Canadians during this time of economic challenge?

The short answer is that the Conservatives don’t think that this issue is a big deal. Young people aren’t a particularly valuable political constituency to them, and they’re gambling that Canadians are more focused right now on narrow, short-term economic interests than on creating opportunities for youth to serve their country.

The longer answer revolves around the Conservative Party’s vision – or lack thereof – for Canada. By their very nature, young people are idealistic, long-term thinkers ready to challenge the status quo and embrace change. Theirs are exactly the perspectives we need as we look to build a Canada that will retake its place of respect in the world, a Canada that acts for both the immediate and long-term well-being of its citizens, its economy and its ecosystems, and a Canada in which the politics of division, fear and indifference have no place.

By refusing to open a conversation about our young people, the Bloc and Conservatives betray their fundamental lack of faith in our country’s ability to achieve greatness.

Canada, and Canadians, deserve better.

Justin Trudeau is the Liberal MP for Papineau and eldest son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau