A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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LEGACY

By 1986, the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti had finally fallen. With Duvalier gone, Karl Lévêque -- the anchor of the Québec Haitian community -- felt the urge to return home to the poorest of the poor Haitians who hadn't been able to leave.

Karl didn't make it back, however. He underwent surgery to remove a benign tumour from his brain. Something went wrong during the anesthesia and Lévêque died, leaving his people, both in Montréal and Haiti, far too soon.

Lévêque's spirit endures among the Haitian community that he created in Québec. Generation upon generation learns and passes on his legacy. The rap group RDPyzeurs, for example, has recently immortalized him in song:

 

Who know Karl Lévêque?
Man of 1000 faces:
ambassador of Montréal's Haitian community,
Wouldn't tow the line,
Duvalierist wanted his head.

Born where my parents grew up;
Morning prayers, afternoon karate.
His favourite pastime:
Bringing democracy home.

Lévêque made an impression on Lejacques Compere, to whom Lévêque opened his home when he first arrived in Montréal. "He was the one who opened his door to me, but also to the Haitian community and to Québec," remembers Compere. Now Compere is a social worker, and gives Lévêque credit for his choosing that line of work. "The problem in a multicultural society isn't poverty or wealth, it's the fact that a person feels different or isolated. He feels that he could never get along with the other culture. This is a mistake. We must learn that what makes people different is a great contribution and not a danger."

 

A man of great discipline,
Bravely defending his ideas,
Like Dessaline.
Saving Haitians was an obsession,
Negotiating without concession.

Karl Lévêque was indeed the protector of the Haitian community in Québec. Canadian multicultural mosaic was something he truly believed in. He felt their was no contradiction between his Haitian personality and his Québécois/Francophone personality. There was harmony between the two. "A French Canadian, we know what that is," Leveque was known to say. "But a Québécois, we still don't know exactly what that means." Some speak French, some speak English, some were born here, some were born elsewhere. They are all part of the new Québec. All the Haitian immigrants: hose who found acceptance after some struggle, those who quickly found their place as valued doctors and teachers, and those who followed in their footsteps. Karl Lévêque, in his idea of the new Québec, provided an example for all of them.
"In unity, strength," he told us.
He reached the diaspora, despite apathy.
He's a model for our descendants,
Since we nearly lost independence.

Footnotes:
1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10
The Haitians in Quebec, A Sociological Profile, by Paul Dejean
(Tecumseh Press, Ottawa, 1980).

4
The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland and Stewart, 1998).

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