MONTREAL—When Michel Boudrias takes his seat in the House of Commons this fall he will be one of the few parliamentarians to have gone to war for his country.
Rarer still is that the man who put his life on the line to serve Canada is a lifelong sovereigntist with the dream of an independent Quebec.
When he deployed to Afghanistan’s volatile Kandahar province in 2010 he was a card-carrying member of the Parti Québécois. When he returned from the six-month mission, he was one of the first to sign onto the sovereigntist splinter party, Option Nationale.
Elected as the Bloc Québécois MP for Terrebonne, a riding north of Montreal, the Canadian Armed Forces veteran is one of 10 Bloc MPs charged with carrying the torch of Quebec independence in Ottawa despite the party’s apparent decline in fortunes.
The experience will no doubt be shaped by his six-month deployment to Afghan frontlines, where he was attached to an Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, a unit tasked with the on-the-job training of Afghan army recruits on the frontlines of their war-ravaged country.
“Every veteran, no matter what mission we’re called to serve in, is marked by the richness of having the chance to live in a free and democratic society,” Boudrias said in an interview this week. “When you have lived through an event as tragic as war, I can guarantee you that it affects everyone’s way of seeing things and the way they will want to change things.”
Boudrias was an army captain and full-time reservist when he deployed between the fall of 2010 and the summer of 2011 as a member of the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, Quebec’s famous VanDoos. It came just as the brutal body counts of coalition soldiers in Afghanistan were beginning to decline.
“I was outside the wire with the Afghan Army. It wasn’t a walk in the park but it was a very secure environment and we had good control of our zone of operations,” Boudrias said. “Were there risks, explosions and attacks? Yes, but no real firefights. No TICs (Troops In Contact) with the exception of our Afghan troops who were often challenged.”
The thirst for sovereignty came to Boudrias when he was young. His first opportunity to cast a ballot came at 18 in the 1995 Quebec referendum. Following the razor-thin victory for the federalist ranks, he got involved in the Parti Québécois youth wing and as a political organizer.
But politics took a back seat when he signed up as a reservist at 27. It was a role Boudrias envisaged as two-or-three-year commitment. He says he fell in love with the profession of arms and ended up serving as a full-time reservist on several occasions during Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.
Three other former Bloc MPs — Stéphane Bergeron, Serge Ménard and Sébastien Gagnon — have previously served in various roles in the Canadian military. But Boudrias appears to have had a more intensive role in the armed forces — and at a later stage in his life.
It was around 2008 while helping to prepare the departing Canadian battle groups for deployment to Afghanistan the he decided he, too, wanted to go overseas.
“It was important to serve and I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines while the parade passed by,” he said.
In January 2010 he finally got the authorization to begin preparation for deployment with the VanDoos. He never felt the slightest doubt about putting his life on the line for Canada. There were no conflicted loyalties either.
“As long as we’re paying taxes to the federal government, Quebecers have to take their place in the federation just like any other citizen of the country,” he said. “It was Mr. Duceppe who said it best: ‘I have nothing against Canada. It’s a beautiful country and I like it, but it’s not my country.’ ”
Boudrias kept his politics to himself during his time of military service, but he plunged back into the sovereigntist ranks upon his return.
After the Bloc Québécois was decimated in the 2011 federal election, Boudrias became president of the party’s Terrebonne riding association. When a PQ renegade, Jean-Martin Aussant, decided to found Option Nationale as a new left-wing option for disaffected supporters of the independence movement, Boudrias was among the first people to sign up.
He says he still has a membership in both provincial sovereigntist parties, but his focus now is rebuilding the Bloc, which increased its seat count to 10 MPs, but won only 19.3 per cent of all votes cast in Quebec — a historic low. The party must also elect a new leader after Gilles Duceppe was defeated in his riding of Laurier—Sainte-Marie.
It will be an intensive mission as any that Boudrias has been called to fight. And he is preparing his deployment to Ottawa the same way as he did for Kandahar. Gathering the essential tools, packing his boxes and steeling himself for the fight ahead.
Média : Toronto Star
Auteur(e) : Allan Woods
Source : https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/10/29/bloc-qubcois-mp-michel-boudrias-proud-to-have-served-canada.html