Their story at the Movies
Argo,the winning Oscar movie this year, is one of those American contraptions where the truth is better served by ourselves than by reality. In this case, obscuring the role that Canada played in the escape of the Americans trapped in Teheran during the heyday of the Khomeini regime. Never let the truth reign over the story.
How can this one be close to home? Well, for one, how about responsible journalism? Jean Pelletier, then La Presse’s Washington correspondent, become aware very early on that Canada was ‘hosting’ some Americans in Canadian diplomats’ homes in Iran. Another? Canada’s bilingualism. The former Shah was a Francophile and since the Ayatollah had spent years in exile in France, it did help that most if not all of the Canadian Embassy staff spoke both French and English.
Then there is the dark and murky world of the unsaid but not unknown. Canada has some expertise in the espionage field, both the high end techno stuff and the lowly on the street kind known as humint. A Canadian flag on a packsack was for years the best passport ever invented.
Yet, unless one really reads the credits of a movie, it would be hard to find out that this was a real Canadian caper.
But we all know that reality must not intrude into fiction too often, as in the still mysterious power outage right smack when the Marines are invading the Ben Laden compound. But then again, one knows that the United States doesn’t have Special Forces in Pakistan. Closer to home: Lincoln It’s America’s worst kept secret. We exported Canadian politics into the United States and thus created the Republican Party, splintering it from the Democrats! Aren’t we lucky that one of our ministers was thinking of outlawing the practice of MNA’s crossing the Floor before he was reminded that the Parti Québécois was founded by a turncoat.
In our case, not documented in any movies, one Ebenezer Peck, who served as a Member of Parliament for Stanstead, is the one responsible.
Peck’s main contribution was to bring the primary system for the election of representatives to the United States. An American born who moved with his family to Montréal, he studied in French before practicing law in Stanstead and Sherbrooke and being elected as one of the two members from Stanstead, before resigning and moving to Illinois were he befriended Abraham Lincoln. The rest his history or, rather, ‘theirstory’.
All of this comes as Quebec is asking itself why our history is not portrayed on the big screen. It’s not a Quebec question, it’s a Canadian one. At worst, we would have heard some questions about Argo when it was being shot. Seems we are the only country who is ashamed of admitting that we spy. So our local born producers must turn to some foreign numbered agent as a source for material. Harry Saltzman, born in Sherbrooke by the way, had to do so. Optioning a book from one Ian Fleming… Hard to make up! Along with the true inventor of the movie studio system, Mack Sennett from Danville, the first real mega star, Éva Tanguay from Marbleton, James Bond’s good fortune started here.