Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Michel Chartrand, December 1916-April 2010

An old anti-capitalist culture hero of mine, the legendary Michel Chartrand, died on Monday at the age of 93. One hesitates--it seems defamatory of his memory, somehow--to add, Rest In Peace.

The highlights of his life can be found here and here: no need for me to repeat all of them. An activist, gadfly and organizer, Michel was viscerally opposed to the Establishment ever since his father was fired, after 44 years on the job, for exposing fraud in Quebec's public works department. Michel was studying to be a monk at the time, and had taken a vow of silence! That abruptly changed, as the numerous recipients of his barbs would testify.

But I would like to share a personal anecdote. During a national strike by my union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, it fell to me as a vice-president to introduce Michel to a crowd of strikers at Place du Portage in Gatineau. I did so with some pleasure, and he spoke...and he spoke, as was his wont. Quite an orator, even in his mid-eighties, he held the crowd's attention. But I was distracted: my regional director was giving me an urgent message.

When Michel finished, Nycole Turmel, PSAC's National President, who had just arrived, went to the microphone to announce that the strike was over.

It was September 11, 2001.

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