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Canada’s Political Turmoil Barely Raises A Whisper in U.S. Border Town With AM-Canada, Bjt

June 23, 1990

MADAWASKA, Maine (AP) _ As Canada’s Meech Lake accord died Saturday and the specter of passionate Quebec nationalism gripped the nation, opinions along the border were divided by the St. John River.

Most people on the U.S. side of the twin cities of Madawaska and Edmunston, New Brunswick, paid no attention. North of the river in Canada, people said a secession by Quebec now seems inevitable. They disagreed on whether that would be good.

″I went home for lunch and told my wife today,″ said Roland Picard, an Edmunston resident who has worked at Pro Photo in Madawaska for 28 years. ″It’s bad. Separation of country. Have you ever heard of that without blood?″

Picard worries that New Brunswick, east of Quebec, will become isolated from the rest of Canada if Quebec becomes an independent nation.

″It will be hard for New Brunswick, for sure,″ Picard said. ″Look at the map.″

Others in New Brunswick want Quebec to drop out of Canada, saying that might let their province join the United States.

″I don’t like their attitude, the Quebec people,″ said Oneil Devost, who has spent the last two years running an Edmunston nightclub, Les Prisonnier du Paradis, after working in construction for two decades in Hartford, Conn. ″I love the American way. The government gives you every break, and they let you work.″

A local Canadian newspaper, The New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, filled Saturday’s entire front page with Meech Lake stories. ″Premier wants torture to end,″ said one headline.

Turning on Canadian radio, listeners could hear virtually nothing but ″Meech Lake″ on the English stations and ″l’accord du lac Meech″ on the French stations.

Asking passers-by from New Brunswick about the accord, designed to persuade Quebec to accept Canada’s constitution by giving the French-speaking province a status as a ″distinct society,″ often elicited responses that were a mixture of French and English profanities.

But people from the Madawaska side often responded to questions about Meech Lake by asking what it was.

″I wasn’t aware that anything was going on over there,″ said Sharon Arnold, a worker in the Fraser Paper Co. mill, which straddles the border and is the largest employer in the twin cities. The two cities have a total population of 30,000.

Maine Rep. Judy Ayotte Paradis, a Democrat from nearby Frenchville, was saddened to see Meech Lake die and saddened to see the lack of interest by local Franco-Americans who have had to fight their own battles for inclusion in the mainstream U.S. culture.

″It’s just not something that they feel affects them,″ Paradis said. ″They see their battle is separate from the Quebecois. We’re fighting for the same thing.″

Those following the fallout from Meech Lake can only speculate about what will happen next. But Donat B. Boisvert, the director of the Maine-Canadian Legislative Office at the State House in Augusta, said the instability could affect trade with all of the border states.

The international commerce came to $302 million in Maine exports to Canada and $1.1 billion in Canadian exports to Maine during 1988, according to Boisvert’s latest figures.

The deadline for ratification of the Meech Lake accord was midnight on Saturday. Efforts to preserve it a day earlier had failed.

″Once everything settles, Quebec separates,″ said Gary Dube, a painter.

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