The Montreal Passport Helps Us Connect
“I’m so glad my parents moved me here. My dad was from Cape Breton and my mother was from Southern Alberta. I used to go back to both those provinces as a young boy every summer to hang with my grandparents. It was no accident my parents chose multicultural Montreal because they wanted to give us something they didn’t have, which, one was getting a second language.
We moved here in 1970 during the October crisis, of all things, and my dad put us into a French Catholic school and I remember going in and there was this huge crucifix on the facade of the building and the directrice was a nun. My sister and I were sitting on either side of my dad and I just remember her saying, even at a young age, in grade two, however old you are in grade two.
The woman saying, “But Mr. MacLeod, you can send your kids to English school.” And he says, “No, I want my kids to have the French language. The French language is the portal into the culture. Without the language, they don’t have the culture.” Right at the onset, having two languages enabled me to shimmy back and forth, have a foot in both worlds, as it were. That really helped, in the art scene, in the music scene.
That’s something that Montreal had that no other city had in North America, to my knowledge. There’s Latinos in L.A. that have both languages in that capacity but, as Canadians, this is a very unique thing. I find it funny, Montrealers, you argue over two languages, but most people I grew up with spoke three, four, five languages. It’s kind of a unique paradigm, an ancient one that goes back. Being part of this city, I love representing that part of my cultural mosaic.
My Scottish-Irish and speaking these two languages, as my passport to outside of Montreal. That was one thing I noticed when I traveled for art residencies, exhibitions, what have you. When I was in Italy, I knew what gnocchi was. I had had prosciutto. I knew a good wine. We went to Spain, oh that’s paella. In the pubs in Ireland, I had frequented enough pubs here to know what a good pint of Guinness was and, if there’s no head on it, it’s not worth drinking.
These were little nuances that we take with us as Montrealers, that we have this passport. It enables us to at least have a segue, or an entrance into a conversation. I think, as human beings, we’re looking for what connects us, what are our common elements. Montrealers can consider themselves very fortunate, if you were open to it, that you had this passport. I’m very proud to have had that passport and still have that passport and carry it with me.”