How a town had to change its name to get away from its past

The Jeffrey Mine from above (Source: Bibiliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec/Flickr)

Asbestos was pretty much like any other small town in southern Quebec. I know it first-hand because it was a thirty-minute drive away from my hometown, and I often visited it. My grandmother lived there, just like approximately 7,000 other people. I have fond memories of climbing up the steep, icy stairs to her apartment, eating sweets and learning to knit. However, I could never figure out the streets of this town because all the buildings looked alike to me. It often felt like home, but not quite. Like it was home for something larger than myself.

Asbestos had always…

Sometimes when you know, you know.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

I’ve been dating people on and off for a few years now. Being the anxious and introverted person that I am, I always ask myself why I’m putting myself through first dates. I feel like dying every single time. And for what? As of now, none of those experiences have led to a long-term relationship. Then again, none of them turned out to be horror stories either. I attribute that to both luck and my overly-prudent character.

As I’m getting more dating experience, I find that my instincts are getting sharper. I don’t need that much time to figure out…

My hobbies may have had the greatest impact on my language skills.

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As a native French speaker in Canada, becoming fluent in English was not a maybe, but a eventually. Being bilingual is still seen as a great asset in the professional world — even a necessity in some industries. Nowadays, children in Quebec start learning English as early as the first grade (even earlier in private institutions), and keep studying the language throughout their secondary and postsecondary education. Not all native French speakers in Quebec would consider themselves to be perfectly bilingual, but most of them know enough English to hold at least a basic conversation.

I do consider myself bilingual…

There are crimes so horrific, they transcend the death penalty debate.

Photo by france perles on Unsplash

On Thursday afternoon, last week, millions of phones buzzed across the province of Quebec. An Amber Alert.

We were then looking for two young girls, two sisters, aged 11 and 6. They were last seen with their father the night before. This would be the longest active Amber Alert in Quebec’s history. It lasted three days.

The girls were eventually found dead.

And I won’t get too much into the details, because as I am writing those lines, a chase is still going on to find their father, still running away or hiding somewhere in the woods. …

On what made French Canadian history and the meaning of what remains.

A view of the taking of Quebec, 13th September 1759 ( engraving by Hervey Smyth, 1797) (source: Wikicommons)

On James Wolfe and his column

On September 13, 1759, a 20-minute battle forever changed the face of North America. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, during which the British army defeated the French in Quebec City, was a catalyst for the end of the French ruling over a significant part of the continent and later marked the beginning of British North America — the ancestor of modern-day Canada. New France was no more; the territory surrounding the St. Lawrence River, and later on the Great Lakes, would be known as the Province of Quebec under British rule.

The British invasion of Quebec City was…

“Can’t computers do that for free?”

Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

After completing my bachelor’s degree in literary studies, I decided that I wanted to work as a translator. To me, this felt like the ideal career that would combine my love of languages, my passion for writing and my intellectual curiosity perfectly. I have now just received my master’s degree in translation, and I am about to start working full-time as a translator. Even after only two years of studying and going through internships, I’ve already gotten to notice what people assume about the profession. …

I’m willing to take the bad with the good.

Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

Hi, America!

Quebec here. Remember me? You were actually quite interested in me back in 1775, how time flies! How are you?

Ugh, shouldn’t have asked that.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in, let you know that I’m still right there, very close to you. I’m watching what’s going on right and I’m worried about you. But you must get that all the time.

I’m not here to tell you what to do, America. Really. I’m not trying to meddle or anything, I know that’s frowned upon. I just want you to know that I support you.

I took…

On October 7, 1969, an illegal strike led to anarchy in Quebec’s largest city.

Saint Catherine Street, Montreal, 1968 (Archives de la Ville de Montréal / Flickr)

Like for many other countries and nations, the ’60s were quite an interesting decade in the history of the province of Quebec. Due to the many sociopolitical changes occurring during that time, the era was named the Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille). However, some events that transpired at the time were anything but quiet, or calm, or peaceful. Here is one of those episodes.

In 1960, Jean Drapeau was elected mayor of Montreal for the second time — he would go on to be mayor for 29 years in total. He had great ambitions for the city: he wanted it to…

I can only hope for the best in the meantime.

Photo by John Silliman on Unsplash

May 30th, 2020.

My mom and I are cruising down the highway. I’ve been staying at my parents’ place in my hometown during the lockdown. We’re now heading to my apartment in Quebec City to get my summer clothes. I didn’t expect to be gone that long, but here we are. A heatwave struck the province a week before, which is extremely unusual at that time of the year. But what is usual this year anyway? Today, though, the weather couldn’t be nicer. It feels like we’re on vacation.

“I feel like going on a trip to the U.S.,” I…

Writing in a different language is about expressing yourself in a different way.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

A year ago, while I was still studying to become a translator, a friend offered me to edit a science-fiction novel written by one of her boyfriend’s friends (not important). I was told the novel was supposed to be published but only needed some polishing, according to the publisher. I thought editing this novel would be a nice experience related to my studies since the novel was written in English by a francophone, and I’ve studied creative writing beforehand. I agreed to do it practically for free.

I soon received the 400-pages manuscript.

I couldn’t get past ten pages.


Laurence Carignan

Translator and writer. Aspiring polyglot and know-it-all. I write about languages, cultures and people. Based in Quebec, Canada.

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