Arthur Milner's plays include Zero Hour, Masada, 1997, Learning to Live with Personal Growth, and Cheap Thrill. He is a former artistic director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa, and a member of Inroads' Editorial Board.
Commissioned by CBC Sunday Showcase (scheduled for broadcast in September 1997). copyright [c] 1997 Arthur Milner
(This is a "not-quite-final" draft of It's not a Country, It's Winter. My gratitude to CBC Radio Drama for commissioning the play, and to Robert Bockstael, Christine Brubaker, Mary Burns, Dave Carley, Sean Dixon, Patrick McDonald, Henry Milner, John Richards, Elizabeth Robertson, Brenda Rooney, Robert Rooney, and James Roy for their comments on an earlier draft.)
It's not a Country, It's Winter takes place in May 2002. The four main characters are between 32 and 40 years old. Mary, Graham and Becky are Anglophones. Jean-Marc is a Francophone. He speaks English fluently, with a slight accent, but he tends to pronounce French words like Quebec and Parisiens as if he were speaking French. I've tried to indicate this by italicizing words to be pronounced in the French manner. "--" at the end of a line of dialogue indicates the speaker has been interrupted by the next speaker. "..." at the end of a line of dialogue indicates the speaker has stopped talking mid-sentence. "..." in a phone conversation indicates a moment's silence while the person at the other end of the line, whom we cannot hear, speaks.
(Graham and Mary's kitchen. Sound: music intro, telephone rings, receiver picked up)
MARY: Hello. ... Hi, Dad. How are you? ... I'm great. ... Oh, there's nothing to worry about. ... No. It's not dangerous. ... There's been some demonstrations, but ... They always show that stuff on television, but it's ... Yeah, a few nuts. ... Dad, mostly there've been rallies, and people are excited. They're celebrating. ... No, they're not wild. I went to one. ... I'm sorry. I shouldn't have told you ... I know I'm pregnant, but ... I went with a friend. Just to see what was happening. ... It's not--Dad. Dad. Dad. ... Trust me. It's not dangerous. ... Let's talk about something else. ... I won't do it again, I promise. ... I said, I promise. ... Yes, we'll be there in a week--a week tomorrow. ... Graham's fine. ... I went to the doctor yesterday and everything's fine. And I've found an obstetrician in Vancouver. ... No, a friend recommended him. He used to live in Montreal, too. ... That's great. ... Well, there's no hurry. ... I'm excited, too. ... Okay. Bye, Dad. ... I love you, too.
(sound: receiver replaced)
(Graham and Mary's kitchen. Sound: CBC News music intro)
FRANCESCA: Good evening. This is Francesca Wilson and this is The World at Six from CBC National Radio News.
PM: I want to assure Parliament--and indeed, the citizens of Canada--that the integrity of Canada is not negotiable. A fifty-three-percent Yes vote in response to a vague and confusing question will never be sufficient justification to tear apart our great country. Furthermore, I want to assure the native peoples of Quebec, as I have assured their leaders, that this government will continue to stand by them and our treaty obligations. J'affirme aussi, et je le dirai sans reserve, (volume drops, translation begins) et en Francais, pour que cette declaration soit bien comprise au Quebec, que le gouvernement du Quebec n'a pas l'autorite legale pour une declaration d'independance; et que ce gouvernement, le gouvernement de tout le Canada, ne negociera jamais avec un fusil vise a son coeur.
TRANSLATOR: (with "et en Francais") I state, as well, and I will say it, without reservation, and in French, so that it will be clearly understood in Quebec, that the Quebec government does not have legal authority to declare Quebec independence; and that this government, the government of all Canada, will never negotiate with a gun aimed at its heart.
FRANCESCA: Prime Minister Leonard Thelen took a new, hard-line approach to Quebec today. Sixteen days after Quebecers voted Yes, the Prime Minister abandoned the wait-and-see tone of his earlier response and signalled a tough, new attitude in response to calls for negotiations from Quebec. We go now to David O'Farrell on Parliament Hill.
DAVID: It's a zoo here today, Francesca. I've never seen anything like it. It began when the Prime Minister, after weeks of intense questioning from Opposition leaders, stated in no uncertain terms that there would be no negotiations with Quebec. You could feel the surprise and, in some cases, shock, ripple through the House of Commons. Parliament responded with wild cheers and an almost complete standing ovation.
FRANCESCA: Who wasn't standing?
DAVID: The twenty-eight-member Bloc Quebecois contingent, of course, and they, in fact, immediately left the House. From where I was I could see at least a dozen government members from Quebec in their seats. There may have been others, but it was hard to tell who was sitting among the hundreds of cheering--
FRANCESCA: Thank you, David. We go now to CBC reporter Yvette Johnson who is with Quebec Liberal MP Gerard Legault. Yvette?
YVETTE: David, I'm with Liberal MP Gerard Legault from the riding of Quebec West, who was one of those who refused to applaud the Prime Minister's remarks. Monsieur Legault, were you surprised?
GERARD: Absolutely. There was no warning, there was nothing. I was shocked. I am still shocked. This is the last thing we need, this escalation. I cannot believe what I have heard today.
YVETTE: How do you explain it?
GERARD: It's very simple. Everyday, people call Monsieur Thelen to be tough, to stand up to Quebec, to show them who is boss. Monsieur Thelen is doing only what the people of Canada want. He is listening to Canadians and they want a war, and if they want a war, I am afraid that is what they will get.
YVETTE: What will you do, Monsieur Legault? Will you resign?
GERARD: It would be easy to resign. I would like very much to resign, but I am a member of the government and I will try to bring this government back to sanity.
YVETTE: Thank you. Francesca.
FRANCESCA: Reform Party House Leader Joanne Doyle was one of those who did applaud the Prime Minister's new resolve. Ms Doyle is on the line from Ottawa. Ms Doyle. It's been a long time since you've praised the Prime Minister.
JOANNE: It has, Francesca. But, of course, we're always willing to give credit when it's deserved.
FRANCESCA: You heard Monsieur Legault's comments. How do you respond?
JOANNE: We can't stand by with our hands in our pockets while the rights of minorities in Quebec are ripped to shreds. Our policy has always been that if Quebec wants to go, let them go. But there are entire regions of Quebec where a majority voted against separation, and those regions must have--
FRANCESCA: You're speaking of Montreal and--
JOANNE: Yes. Montreal and the north of Quebec, where a huge majority of Canada's native people said No to the separatists, and the Eastern Townships, as well as western Quebec. These regions should have the right to stay in Canada and--
FRANCESCA: Monsieur Legault said that the Canadian people are looking for a war with--
JOANNE: That's pure nonsense. Who started this, Francesca? Who provoked it? Canadians want only to defend our democratic rights and Canada has a constitutional obligation to do so.
FRANCESCA: Are you saying that you would send in the armed forces?
(door opening and closing)
JOANNE: If that's what it takes to protect the rights of Canadian citizens? In a minute, yes. That happens to be our policy.
FRANCESCA: Thank you, Joanne. We go now to ...
GRAHAM: You know what Bregman's--
NEWS: ... Alan Kazinsky, Chief of the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Alan? ... Alan? ... We'll have that report later in the program.
NEWS: In related news, Quebec Premier Michel Bellefeuille has appealed to aboriginal leaders to ...
(sound: radio off)
GRAHAM: Bregman's put up a big sign on his store. "English Defence Committee Headquarters."
MARY: You're serious? He's asking for it.
GRAHAM: It's what he wants. He wants his window smashed.
MARY: That'll go well with Thelen's statement. He said, "no negotiations."
MARY: He got a standing ovation for it.
GRAHAM: Well. At least we won't be here.
MARY: And just when it's getting exciting, too. My father called. He went by the apartment. They're almost finished painting. And everything looks great. And he got us a washer and dryer, a really good deal he says, through a friend. And he wanted to know if he should check out schools in the area.
GRAHAM: It's a bit premature.
MARY: That's a bad choice of words.
GRAHAM: Sorry. Oh, I talked to Kenilworth. They want me--
MARY: Kenilworth. Kenilworth.
GRAHAM: Dave Kenilworth? Top guy in the Vancouver office? They expect me a week Monday.
MARY: We get there Sunday.
GRAHAM: I know.
MARY: So, from the moment we arrive, you'll be working twenty-hour days and I'll be alone unpacking, painting, cleaning. Sounds okay to me.
GRAHAM: You're a sweetheart.
MARY: Give us a kiss.
(sound: they kiss)
GRAHAM: Are you excited?
GRAHAM: About going home.
MARY: It's kind of hard.
GRAHAM: I know. It's a strange time.
MARY: I mean, Vancouver isn't home anymore. It's been fifteen years. I'm excited about living near Dad again. And about the baby growing up near his grandfather. And, the baby's excited, too.
GRAHAM: And how do you know that?
MARY: She is. Take my word--
MARY: He or she. Okay, "it." I'm comfortable with "she." I think it's a "she."
GRAHAM: I'm not sure it's a good idea to get used to it. Cause we don't know.
MARY: Cathy said Liam was kicking at four months.
GRAHAM: You getting nervous?
GRAHAM: And what do the experts say?
MARY: The experts do not speak with a single voice. So I pick the expert who says what I want to hear.
MARY: But it doesn't seem to help much.
GRAHAM: It works for me.