Painter: Dominique Beauregard
Photographer: Robin Simard
Detail: Acrylic on canvas; 60 “x 30”
Painting by Dominique Beauregard from the exhibition « Les Stations du curé Labelle »
Any talk about Curé Labelle is inevitably tied to the story of the railway, the main instrument of colonization. He was said to be so obsessed with the topic that one day, after hearing a confession, he imposed a “chemin de fer” [railway] rather than a “chemin de croix” [way of the cross] as penance on a parishioner. The latter, no doubt tired of hearing the priest reciting his litany, reminded him that he didn’t need a railway to get to Heaven. Labelle responded: “That’s definitely true, but do you know what St. Peter will say to those who arrive in a horse-drawn cart? He’ll say: You’re fools!”
The title of the painting, Un chemin de fer, un chemin à faire, reflects the important role the railway was to play in the grand colonization project. Unfortunately, Labelle did not live to see the full extent of the expansion he imagined for “his railway.” He did play a major part in its development, however. The painting also evokes the legend of the chasse-galerie, or flying canoe. In this revisited version of the legend, the priest is standing at the controls in the locomotive that bears his name, leading a group of settlers, merchants and industrialists waving a flag inspired by the French coat of arms as they travel toward “his north.” Flying over already settled farmland, the band of bold pioneers continues on its journey ever northward.