Book Review: Legacy – How French Canadians Shaped North America

Legacy

The editors of Legacy start and finish the book, in between those pages are the stories of twelve French-Canadians, some I knew of and some I have not – though their names were known to me as street names in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa.

Andre Pratté contributes the Foreword and Jonathan Kay the Afterword. In the foreword, Pratte hints of who might be considered for a second volume as they were left out. Kay writes in the afterword of his ‘regret’ as a Anglo-Quebecer and how English Canada needs to know about these twelve French Canadians, but also that there are others that need to be heard and known of west of the Ottawa River. Both speak with pride about the role French Canadians played in the growth and prosperity of North American.

Kay says as much in a reply to a tweet I wrote after completing the book.

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My dilemma in reading Legacy was HOW do I read it? Do I read the essays in the order I want, or do I follow (trust) the Editors Pratte and Kay have purposely placed these essays in a particular order? I trusted the editors. 

Legacy was an interesting read, the subject matter was great, but because of the format, I was as at the mercy of the contributors of the book. There were some essays that I had difficulty getting through because of the writer’s style, but I got through them and learned more about the contributions our Quebec cousins made to Canada and North America.

In reading some of the essays I had questions as in with Deni Ellis Bechard’s essay on Jack Kerouac I couldn’t tell if it was written when Kerouac was alive as Bechard doesn’t mention his death in 1969. I was drawn into the life of Montreal’s Paul David and his medical accomplishments. The political tour de force of Thérese Casgrain left me wondering why we had not heard of her and why her name is not mentioned with the Famous Five when it comes to women who leave their mark on this country.

In reading the essays on Thomas-Louis Tremblay and Georges Vanier, their heroics and bravery were outstanding. They are connected through their membership of the 22nd Battalion, the Van Doos and their battles in WWI. It’s interesting that another great Canadian has such a presence in the life of Vanier, Vincent Massey was the foil for everything that Vanier stood for – but both became Governor Generals of Canada, George Vanier was appointed Canada’s Regal representative following the death Massey in 1959.

What I anticipated the most ended up being the most difficult to read. Lucien Bouchard’s essay of Henri Bourassa was riveting. It being a hard read, it forced me go through it twice, I am glad I did. Bourassa ‘s battle with the Catholic Church and Pope Pius XI is well documented, as is his passion for Quebec, a passion that lives on long after his death.

From explorers Pierre de la Vérendrye and Albert Lacombe to Jacques Plante and Kerouac, Legacy brings nine men and three women, all French Canadians and all-important contributors to North American Anglophones AND Francophones to learn about. Writers Ken Dryden (Jacques Plante), the afore mentioned Lucien Bouchard Bourassa), Samantha Nutt (Casgrain), Roméo Dallaire (Tremblay) and Jean Charest & Antoine Dionne-Charest (George-Étienne Cartier) add their voices through their words on Quebec’s and French Canada’s history and place in North America.

Surely there are more than enough subjects for a Volume II.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

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