Summer of a hundred years ago
Today’sweather is a degree or two shy of what it was in 1914 and we will guess that most people who were reading The Stanstead Journal were, for the most part, engaged in what we did then during the summer: work. The leisure society was not yet born and, apart from the rich who vacationed on the lakes, private trains bringing them to here or North Hatley from the South of the USA, most of the residents of the region were hard at work. As it was elsewhere around the world, almost everything revolved around agriculture. Here in Stanstead, a big commercial and industrial hub, things were a bit different obviously. We were then the Whip Capital of the World, or at least Canada. A rather new country, Alberta and Saskatchewan had become provinces less than a few years earlier, it was still very much a British Colony, except in Quebec, naturally.
This was all to change in the next few weeks. Two weeks before, one hundred years ago, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria had died from an assassin’s bullet in Sarajevo; we all know now that this was the decisive moment that would start World War One.
Here, it did not register much. We were still in the horse and buggy period even if the first car built in Canada had been built here. In less than five years, the first mechanical war would retire the horse as the main power of individual transportation and whips would not be much in demand. What was a ‘novelty’, not worthy of much commercial hope, the airplane would become common. Two men of vision who would embrace the mechanical war, Winston Churchill and Charles DeGaulle, would change the art of battle forever by backing tanks.
If we write that the horse and buggy still ruled the world, maybe it was less so in Stanstead. In the issue published one hundred years ago, there are two ads on the front page on cars. One from the policeman George Cross of Rock Island reminding all that he would enforce the speed limit in town, all 14 miles per hour of it, and True and Blanchard of Newport, a Ford dealer, telling us that his filtered gas was 18 cents a gallon. We were at a crossroads and nobody seemed to notice. As we are today. The United States media, almost ignorant of history and semantics, prefers to call the organisation controlling a lot of Iraq the Caliphate of Iraq and Syria. The real name is of Iraq and the Levant and we guess that, in Israel, they know what it means.
The world is as unstable now as it was a century ago. Everybody is trying to place itself in the best position on an ever changing chessboard. The United States is unable to impose its will. It is as powerful as Britain was in 1914, not knowing that by the end of that war, the Colonies, as they were still called, would in fact rule the world.
So, this is a quiet summer, as it was a century ago. And we will be off for the next two weeks. See you in August.
Beforewe proceed with our MCI Gordon Kohl award, we would like to take advantage of this moment to congratulate Gisèle for winning the Prix d’excellence en environnement of the Fondation Estrienne en environnement in recognition of her 25 years of effort protecting the environment of Estrie. There is not a single individual in Québec who is better deserving of this salute! Congratulations, Gisèle !
We would like to read a wonderful short paragraph written by Gordon Kohl in 1987. Gordon Kohl; one of the MCI founders. The man who graces our award with his name. This is what he wrote 27 years ago:
MCI with its modern, well- equipped office and its exceptional reference library, stands after 20 years of efforts at new heights. This will continue so long as we are fortunate enough to have with us a Stewart Hopps. For those of us who have been privileged to work with him, the experience has been one of a lifetime.
Now, let’s take the liberty of slightly updating Gordon Kohl’s message and read it again.
MCI stands after 47 years of efforts at new heights. This will continue so long as we are fortunate enough to have with us a Gisèle Lacasse Benoit. For those of us who have been privileged to work with her, the experience has been one of a lifetime.
We know Gisèle will not be discomforted with a comparison to Stewart Hopps. He was one of her heroes and the first person to win the Gordon Kohl award.
Gisèle’s contribution to MCI can be split into two time zones: 1990 – 1996 followed by 20022014. We will be talking mostly about her second 12-year tenure during which time she served as president for 8 consecutive years. Maybe there were a couple of dedicated 4-year MCI presidents if we go back to the early days but for some years now, prior to Gisèle, the norm of a MCI presidency has been 2 years in office.
So….. Gisèle ruled as présidente for 96 months and it seemed with each month a building block was added to her concept of what MCI should stand for in the community.
Before I forget, as an aside, unlike most other kinds of volunteer work, working with the environment can also involve the law. Several times Gisèle has been forced to report to the municipality when a citizen has decided to ignore the environmental protection rules installed by that municipality. These are unpleasant moments and can have the potential of doing damage to old friendships. It is times such as these that Gisèle probably wishes she had chosen to be a volunteer for her old university instead of MCI !
To continue… In a nutshell what Gisèle wished for the community was to protect the watershed of Lake Memphrémagog and be ready to fight anyone or anything that endangered that undertaking. Patrolling the lake and testing the water was just a start. In the long run, the lake would only be capable to reflect the health of its own watershed and it was time to give that watershed a health check.
Back in 1990 and 1992 Gisèle fought to protect (a) Magog Bay from the construction of a gigantic hotel on the bays of the lake and (b) fought to contest a plan to cover the beaches of Magog Bay with artificial sand. To help, she took a leadership role to help regional environmental groups who were presenting briefs to BAPE hearings. The result? Victory! both (a) and (b) damaging initiatives were abandoned. (BAPE stands for Bureau of Audiences Publiques en Environnement).
In December of 2004, two years following her return to MCI, Gisèle participated actively in presenting a brief to BAPE to oppose the idea of a promoter exchanging parcels of parkland in order
Seen here at the AGM were (l. to r.) Madeleine Saint-Pierre, past MCI Administrator; Claude Bernier, MCI President; Gisèle Lacasse-Benoit, MCI Past President and Gordon-Kohl 2014 award winner; and Donald Fisher, 2004 and 2005 MCI President.