Credits: Richard Desjardins, Richard Desjardins au Club Soda, Fukinic, Distribution Fusion III, 1993.
Photo credits: album cover, Richard Desjardins, Richard Desjardins au Club Soda, Fukinic, Distribution Fusion III, 1993.
We are by the Horne Mine’s barriers in 1934, in the midst of an economic crisis, there is a strike led by those we called the “Fros” when I was younger. The “Fros” is a contraction of the word “foreigner”. At that time, French Canadians did not work in mines. They believed that they would spend enough time underground when they die, so there is no need to rush things [laughing]. Which makes sense. The “Fros” fled poverty in 1920s-1930s Russia. Ukrainians and Polish, too. They took a boat to cross the Channel to come to Halifax, Canada, where an immigration official greeted them: “Welcome Suckers!” [Laughing] “We have just discovered a vast and beautiful region in the north of the country called Abitibi, which means in Indian: the place where asphalt roads stop”. For real! [laugh] “We have just found a large copper deposit and your job is to dig it up. If you do it well and you don’t break any laws, you will be given identity papers in five years”. This was the agreement. So the “Fros” went to Noranda. Along with French Canadians, experiencing an economic crisis, fleeing Trois-Rivières, Québec and Montréal’s poverty. 50 000 left, but to work in agriculture… cultivating varieties of polar caps. But they were happy, admiring the many and varied sunsets while reciting a rosary made of blueberries [laughing]. The “Fros” worked for a while, but at one point, they met the mine manager, Mister Roscoe. Roscoe was a somewhat self-absorbed guy who learned the engineer trade by working in Africa’s gold mines in the course of the century. This being a sign, I believe, that he had a particular view of industrial relations [laughing]. After a few years, they went to see Mister Roscoe and demanded a number of things. There was no union at that time, obviously. First, they asked for a dryer to dry off because it is quite humid underground. Hazardous. Second, that they never forget someone in the mine when they pull the elevator shaft up at 5 PM. That was common at the time. And third, to have a salary that approached infinimum, if I may put it that way. So Mr. Roscoe, being a withdrawn guy, withdrew to his office and called the R.C.M.P. That’s when they used tear gas on people for the first time in the history of Québec. The “Fros” were arrested and taken to Amos. They were met by the judge who asked for I.Ds. So they were sent back home and the French Canadians, who just had went through an awful lumberjack strike, replaced them in Noranda.
“Les Fros” (unofficial translation)
They asked for fans because of the Smelter’s gas: “We want warm water, we want a bit of sunshine before nightfall. Pull up the elevator shaft before 5 PM” “Fros, get out!” Roscoe said. “That’s what I call a silly cause. Cause I’m only here for the money, stupid. The French Canadians wanted by the mine” (in English in the original). The Anglo-Canadians have been here for copper for 50 years now. For us, a little more to survive as hares running in the night. In Montréal, in Trois-Rivières, in Québec, there is nothing to eat. People are unhappy. Abject poverty is no laughing matter. Go into the woods and fast! A pocket of flowers, a can of grease. It was the Abitibi-baloney of the nineteen hundred and thirty-somethings. “There will be success for everyone. Open space and freedom,” they said. But you get used to thinking about yourself when the ground freezes in summer. The foreigners did not go in, the chimney stopped smoking, as we saw from Cléricy.” “Let’s burn the felled timber; the mine is hiring, down in the shaft I am going. There is no hole darker than this place.” “As long as there is smoke, there will be no problem, there will be no strike to sell cars, this is no good, said the deputy, I will say something about that on the television.” “Bend on your knees commies and sing a song for your kind Copper King” (in English in the original). Long live the company! We don’t enjoy whining men for too long. Only a last word and I clear the path. The day I’ll be found dead, bury me upright with my head outside the ground. In the sun!