Fritz von Rottenburg
Fritz von Rottenburg, © Auswärtiges Amt
1994 – 1998
[...] Soon after my arrival in Montreal I experienced how the ambitions towards an independent Quebec intensified more and more. Losing the first referendum in 1980 had not been accepted as final decision in this matter. [...]
I have many nice, exciting and happy memories as well as two very special ones.
- The first one was weather-related:
It was in 1996 or 1997 that on one occasion we experienced almost 8 hours of freezing rain. It was a real catastrophe in much of southern Quebec which created a life-threatening situation for many residents.
Slippery icy road conditions, fallen trees and branches brought traffic to a virtual standstill for a couple of days.
On top of that, three of the four mayor transmission lines supplying greater Montreal with its four million citizens with electricity had folded under the masses of ice. Many buildings, amongst them our residence, relied on electricity for heating just like the majority of Montreal’s inhabitants we had no lights, couldn’t cook and all electrically operated devices as well as the electric heating system ceased to function. Being in the midst of a Canadian winter it became very cold very fast in our residence and other houses around us. Luckily, not only did we have a fire place, but we had also stocked wood and candles – now living like 150 years ago, before the invention of electricity.
It was not until some four days later, once the roads had been decided and cleared of all sorts of debris, that private vehicles were allowed back in the streets. In some parts of the city and adjacent townships there was no power for weeks. The woods in southern Quebec were devastated. I believe this freezing rain remains a unique and terrifying experience for all of us who witnessed it.
- The second one had a political context:
Soon after my arrival in Montreal I experienced how the ambitions towards an independent Quebec intensified more and more. Losing the first referendum in 1980 had not been accepted as final decision in this matter. Thus, after a heated election campaign a second referendum aiming at the independence of Quebec was held on October 30th in 1995. I had decided to visit the election eve parties of the opposing fractions.
Arriving at the event of the proponents of independence, the first exit polls results had just come in, indicating a clear YES-majority – loud cheers !
Moving on to the NO-supporters, the atmosphere was noticeably nervous, though not hopeless since the margin of the YES-advocates were getting smaller and smaller. A little later, suddenly the No-votes prevailed. Needless to say, the exuberance of the NO-Sayers was tremendous.
Back at the event of the YES-advocates I was met with an atmosphere of total depressiveness. Victory had been close to touch; still the “battle” was lost a second time – granted by a small margin only, but with a clear result.
The following morning Premier Parizeau held the non-Francophones responsible for the defeat. On the other hand, had all Francophones voted in favour of independence, the YES-party would have come out on top. Premier Parizeau was heavily criticized for his remarks and eventually had to step down. His successor Premier Bouchard had every intention to pursue the course towards independence, but also failed.