The young people that I introduce to you this time were not unknown to me. In fact, Raphaël is the son of a friend born in Portugal whom I met when we were both Fine Art students at UQAM. We were both young fathers, which distinguished us from other students. The first time I saw Raphaël, he must have been at most two years’ old. He got along very well with my son Mikaël as our two families met regularly at the time. Later, I lost sight of him for a dozen years or so, and of his father as well for that matter.
The first time I met his wife, Raphaëlle, the couple lived in the Plateau. With their two young daughters, Livia and Flore, they now live in Ahuntsic, where Raphaëlle herself lived during her adolescence. The couple first met at CEGEP Bois-de-Boulogne where they were both studying.
Knowing Raphaël's parents are respectively a painter and a musician, you may be surprised to learn that he recently defended his doctoral thesis in mathematical physics at Université de Montreal. I had the pleasure and honor to attend the event at the invitation of his father. According to the definition given by the University "Mathematics as a science is the study of quantities, orders, spaces, numbers and figures". I retain from it that his field of study leaves some room for creative thinking. His academic career has even brought him to collaborate with researchers in Rome, where he went twice. He has been teaching mathematics for a couple of years at Collège Ahuntsic.
For her part, Raphaëlle is also currently completing a doctorate in Marine Resource Management at UQAR (Institut des sciences de la mer, ISMER), in Rimouski, Qc. She is particularly interested in marine governance. More specifically, she examines how the decisions are linked to the livelihoods of local communities and their traditional lifestyles. She questions the participation of residents in the process of work organization and resource management, as well as the contribution, positive or not, of local and national governments. She talked to me about the realities of coastal communities of West Africa, as her studies led her to do two internships in Cape Verde. She was just back from this country at the time of our meeting.
It was through her mother, a native of France, that she was first interested in the oceans. Her mother’s family owns a property acquired while tourism was not yet developed in La Ciotat on the French Mediterranean. As a kid, she often went snorkeling, and later, scuba diving, near the house where she still returns occasionally with her family.
Raphaëlle's mother arrived in Quebec in the late sixties. Her father is a Quebecer. They met in left wing groups and have remained militants since that era. It is through conversations with his stepfather that Raphaël gradually acquired a taste for political action. The two men are now active members of Québec Solidaire (QS). Raphaël first participated to QS meetings in Mercier, and then took part in militant activities in this constituency which elected Amir Khadir as MNA. He is now part of QS’ coordination committee in Crémazie and recently participated in the National Council of the organization. He appreciates the dynamic between militants within the party and spoke with a certain admiration of his colleague, Bernard Gauvin. This gentleman is one of the spokespersons of the Moncton student protest of 1968 that were central in the documentary film "L'Acadie, l'Acadie?!?" by Michel Brault and Pierre Perrault.
If Raphaëlle also supports his positions and occasionally participates in Raphaël's activities, she does not have the same patience for group activities. She does defend her principles nonetheless. I have seen her on a podium in 2010, during a demonstration against dirty energy, as the Montreal World Energy Congress was opening and major global energy companies were gathering to multiply their business opportunities. She was defending the perspective of Attention FragÎles, a NPO that contributes to the environmental responsibility of the people of Îles-de-la-Madeleine, on behalf of their official spokeswoman who could not be there.
They both strive to put their beliefs into practice. They have made the choice not to own a car and travel by bicycle and public transport. Mid way through town this summer, I ran into Raphaëlle on St-Denis Street on her way to pick-up Flore at a day care in the Plateau, because they still haven’t found a place in a local Early Childhood Center. Earlier this summer, as I was leaving my meeting with Philippe and Christiane of Journaldesvoisins.com, I also saw Raphaël and Livia, each riding their bikes.
In their house I saw a cello, a guitar and a piano. It is Raphaëlle who is the musician. She has taken for some time classes at the Conservatoire in Montreal, but she was not willing to subject herself to the rigorous discipline of classical music. A strong musical current flows in her family. She even has an aunt and uncle who are respectively violinist and cellist of the Alcan Quartet.
When Raphaëlle will have completed her doctorate, the family will possibly be facing a dilemma. Everything will depend on the type of job Raphaëlle will find. Montreal is an island, but it is far from the sea!