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.
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:
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."
- 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
Morning prayers, afternoon karate.
His favourite pastime:
Bringing democracy home.
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.
- A man of great discipline,
Bravely defending his ideas,
Saving Haitians was an obsession,
Negotiating without concession.
- "In unity, strength,"
he told us.
He reached the diaspora, despite apathy.
He's a model for our descendants,
Since we nearly lost independence.
The Haitians in Quebec, A Sociological Profile, by Paul Dejean
(Tecumseh Press, Ottawa, 1980).
The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland and Stewart, 1998).
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