Une épopée des plus brillants exploits

I grew up in Ste. Rose du Lac, a village with a strong French population. From grade 1 to grade 9, I rode the bus 20 minutes every morning and every evening1 in order to attend school at École Laurier, a French immersion school in the nearby village of Laurier. There I learned to parlez en français, and all my classes (with the obvious exception of English) were taught in French. I learned my fractions in French, I learned about weathering and terminal moraines and drumlins en français, I learned about Louis Riel2 and the Métis and the plains of Abraham in French. Even at recess we were supposed to converse in French. We didn’t, but the teachers supervising would pretend not to understand if we tried to speak to them in English.3

I learned the Lord’s prayer in French. I learned my national anthem en français, too; in fact, it was years before I learned it in English. (Later I learned that the French version is the original, and the English words currently in use — not a translation of the original, but a different anthem — were written over a quarter-century after the version that I learned, and still treasure.)

On Remembrance Day, which is, of course, today, there’s a stanza in the French anthem that resonates with great power:

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée
Il sait porter la croix

En anglais, roughly, it means:

Because you understand the sword,
You also understands the cross

You can’t have war without casualties. You can’t have conflict without cost. You can’t have the sword and not expect fields of crosses, shot through with poppies.



  1. My dad worked out the mileage once. I’ve been around the world twice on a school bus. 
  2. When you go to a French immersion school run by a Catholic ex-nun, the pantheon goes Dieu, Jésus, l’esprit saint, Louis Riel, pape Jean-Paul II, et tout le reste
  3. Unless you had, say, a scalp wound or an obviously broken arm.