Hitting the Road in Quebec and Looking for Your Guidance: The Canada Letter

The Quebec of my youth was a place of simmering cultural battles. French Quebecers were agitating for their rights to be respected, while thousands of Anglophones were fleeing.

Today, separatism is largely in retreat, poutine is a national treasure, though proudly Québécois, and people the world over see Canada — and Quebec — as enviable social and economic models.

During my trip, I plan to visit Montreal, Maniwaki, Hérouxville, Quebec City and Saguenay — five places that show very different faces of the province.

Hitting the Road in Quebec and Looking for Your Guidance: The Canada Letter
Hitting the Road in Quebec and Looking for Your Guidance: The Canada Letter

I will start in Montreal, where, among other things, I plan to meet with Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, 27, the charismatic co-leader of Québec Solidaire, a left-wing party that supports an independent Quebec. He was one of the leaders of the large 2012 student protests against increases in university tuition fees that energized a new generation of political activism in the province.

After Montreal, it’s off to nearby Maniwaki, where I will visit the indigenous reserve Kitigan Zibi. There, I will join colleagues from The Times’s Race Related team in a Facebook chat with Cezin Nottaway, an Algonquin chef who is as adept hunting moose with a shotgun as she is wielding a spatula and frying pan.


A mural depicting the history of Québec City.Credit Catherine Côté for The New York Times

Then I will visit Hérouxville, which, fairly or not, more than a decade ago became synonymous with a xenophobic Quebec after the town council unanimously adopted a code of conduct calling on immigrants not to stone women or set them on fire. I am interested in finding out whether and how attitudes have shifted.

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In Quebec City, I hope to meet members of the Muslim community and to discuss how they are feeling more than a year after a deadly mosque attack. I also hope to meet the mayor of Quebec, Régis Labeaume, who has been dubbed “The King of Quebec.” And I have reserved a place at L’Affaire est Ketchup, where the cooks conjure up dishes like foie gras on toast with blueberries and maple syrup and use two electric stoves!

Last stop is Saguenay, where many manufacturing jobs have been lost because of globalization. I want to learn how this has shaped people’s perspectives there.

I will chronicle my journey — and tell you more details about where I’m going — on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as in The Times’s Reader Center and in editions of this newsletter on March 17 and 24. I will even send you a bonus edition of the newsletter on March 21.

I want your help in building out the rest of my itinerary and figuring out what else I should do. Who are the cultural figures and interesting local characters I should meet? What sites, neighborhoods or restaurants should I visit? Who can show me a slice of the real Quebec?

And because no road trip is complete without some music to blast in the car, I want you to send me your favorite songs to be an ideal soundtrack for driving through Quebec. (I have been told that my current list, which includes Leonard Cohen, Garou and Roch Voisine, needs a radical update.) I plan to publish a playlist from the best suggestions.

Please email your ideas for me to nytcanada@nytimes.com. I can’t wait to hear from you — and to hit the road!

Digital Stream


Clockwise from top left: Scenes from “Fast Five,” “Winter’s Bone” and “Wind River.”Credit Universal Pictures; Roadside Attractions; Weinstein Company

Scott Tobias at Watching, The Times’s guide to streaming video and films, has gone through Netflix’s offerings in Canada during March to create his list of recommendations. They include “Steve Jobs” (although with a qualification) and “Winter’s Bone,” the first big film with Jennifer Lawrence before she went on to greater fame in the “Hunger Games” movies.

As always, Netflix sometimes changes its mind at the last minute about programming so some of Scott’s recommendations may not appear on your screen.

Sunday brings the Academy Awards, an event that The Times goes all out in covering. Our efforts can all be found here.

Read: The Best Movies and TV Shows New to Netflix Canada in March

Read: Oscars 2018 coverage

Centre Ice

In 2016, the National Hockey League rebuffed Quebec City’s request for the league to return to town. But it backed a team bid from Las Vegas, a city with zero hockey heritage. Despite that, the Golden Knights’ first season is an unqualified success.

Trans Canada

—Rather than complain about the snow and cold, many immigrants to Canada are now conquering its ski slopes.

—Claiming that imported steel and aluminum are a national security risk, President Trump said he impose steep tariffs on imports next weekweek. While the move was targeted at China, Canada may suffer the most.

—The latest round of talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement continue in Mexico City until Tuesday. But if the negotiations end with the agreement’s destruction, as Mr. Trump has threatened, the result may not be all that severe for Canada.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

We’d love your feedback on this newsletter. Please email your thoughts and suggestions to nytcanada@nytimes.com. And if you haven’t done so, please subscribe to the email newsletter version.

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