Sunday, December 26, 2010


Robert Beale was the president of the St. Leonard Home and School Association in Montreal in 1967, when the St. Leonard school board insisted that children of immigrants within its jurisdiction receive unilingual French education and cracked down on families' rights to choose to have their children educated in the English language. Bobby Beale opposed the removal of English instruction from the schools and he set up a clandestine organization to by-pass the hated legislation.
It was widely known that Montreal's Italian mafia hated the separatists. Paolo Violi despised the nationalist extremists and one report describes how he offered Bobby Beale "moral support".
In the book "Iced: The Story of Organized Crime in Canada" by Stephen Schneider, Anne Charney quotes Bobby Beale about his experience with Paolo Violi, "If he saw me passing by, he would call me over, invite me in for a coffee and tell me what a great job I was doing. He would say, "My Boy - he always called me that - we admire you and we appreciate this."
In fact, Paolo Violi did a lot more than give Bobby Beale "moral support". Charney reports that Violi stationed men at Beale's home to protect him.
Bobby told me himself how a woman in his family had been brutally attacked by three separatist thugs. She was warned of even worse if Bobby persisted in resisting the separatists' cause. This story was never published and I will not, even after all these years, describe what occurred or provide any details. But there was good reason for the Beale family to need protection.
I worked with Bobby Beale during that crisis. I can't remember how we first met, but I remember vividly going to work as a volunteer at an office over a small garage on Everett Street in St. Leonard that specialized in installing car radios. What we were doing was covertly arranging for children from St. Leonard to be transported to secret locations - mostly churches or home basements - where they were being taught in English.
One day I was invited into the office of the owner of the garage. I don't remember the nature of the conversation. I think he just wanted to meet me  - or keep an eye on me until Bobby arrived that day. But I can still see the big man sitting there behind a big old desk smoking a big cigar. I was scared, and the stench of that cigar churned my stomach. I knew where I was. I was alone. But I forced myself to stay calm. In my mind, it was not about organized crime - just the little crime of side-stepping a bad law for the sake of the children, their parents, our Canadian identity, and freedom. I was on the side of the Italian Canadian children of St. Leonard whose families were protesting a law that smothered their right to use the English language.
In 1971, as the language crisis continued with terrible violence, I hopped on a bus and joined a huge demonstration on Parliament Hill. There, it didn't matter if you only spoke Italian or English or French. The salami and wine and bread were shared and we managed to communicate with a little of this and a little of that. Quand on veut, on peut. When you want to, you can.
The photo of the protest in front of the Parliament of Canada was on the front page of the Montreal Star the next day. You can't see my face in the crowd, but you can see my poster clearly. It reads -
Phyllis Mass Carter
From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia and Other Sources
An Act to promote the French language in Quebec of 1969 also known as Bill 63, was a language law passed in the Canadian of Quebec. The law was passed by the Union Nationale government because of controversy and violence that erupted when the Catholic school board of St. Leonard, Quebec insisted that children of mostly Italian immigrants be forced to go to French schools.
Bill 63, Law promoting the French language in Quebec. (Nov 1969), required children receiving their education in English to acquire a working knowledge of French and required everything to be done so that immigrants acquired the knowledge of French upon arrival in Québec.
In 1967, the school board of St-Léonard (Montréal) had insisted that children of immigrants within its jurisdiction receive unilingual French education.
Anglophone opposition caused the Union Nationale government to introduce Bill 85, which never passed the parliamentary committee stage.
The Gendron Commission was then established to investigate language problems in Québec, but when a compromise proposed by the St-Léonard school board trustees led to violent demonstrations, the government introduced Bill 63 without awaiting the commission's recommendations.
Bill 63 aroused unprecedented opposition among Québec's francophone population who believed it was too weak a measure. It was eventually repealed and replaced by the more comprehensive Bill 22.
In 1974, the act was superseded by the Official Language Act.

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