With the dust settling on the Scottish independence referendum, and with ‘NO’ to independence for Scotland prevailing, the buildup and vote to stay certainly brings back memories of our last experience in Canada. Next year will bring the latter’s 20th anniversary.
Part of my family was there in Montreal in late October 1995 for the big pro-Canada rally, a few days before the referendum was voted on the 30th. My spouse and I, sister living in the U.S., and my resident mother were downtown at Place du Canada for the speeches and gathering.
With the Prime Minister and provincial Liberal leader on the podium as well, the most impassioned, affective appeal was made by Conservative leader Jean Charest. While the former two came in with the highest profile credentials, the latter was most memorable. The overall positive feeling in the crowd evolved into a collective voice and colour of support which subsequently flowed into the nearby streets. This was one of those experiences one does not forget.
One of the most arresting sights during the rally occurred quite near me, and to this day I regret not having recorded it. Just behind our vantage point, in back of the crowd before the makeshift stage, were trucks from media reporting on the event. Close to us was one from Radio Canada, the French language arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, known for having personnel with a slant in favour of Quebec separation. At one point during the rally, to my astonishment someone looking to be a Radio Canada crew member climbed on top of one of their vehicles, then quietly brandished a red-and-white Canadian flag. This continued for several minutes, yet it seemed to me that few others took notice, likely due to their focus front to the political glitterati. My camera was handy, so I kept debating with myself about taking a picture of this dramatic image. Alas, I waited too long and the opportunity was lost.
I’ve often wondered since if I missed on capturing a picture from the day which could be almost an iconic symbol of the spirit of national unity, the overriding theme of the day. It’s probably more important that such an unexpected anecdote illustrated the feelings of many not normally demonstrative, but happily sufficient in numbers to help support the ultimate, too close, victory which has proven a significant step in recent Canadian social history.