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Ted Nolan wonders: where'd the love go in the Saguenay?

**************************** "When we only have love To furnish with marvels And cover with sun The ugliness of the suburbs.
CelineDion2

**************************** "When we only have love

To furnish with marvels

And cover with sun

The ugliness of the suburbs."

**************************** Those words, far more eloquent in the original French, were sung by Celine Dion on August 25, 1996 during a nationally televised benefit concert for the people of Quebec's Saguenay region.

A month earlier, floodwaters had torn through the community of Chicoutimi, raging around a defiant little white house that somehow survived to become a national symbol of triumph over adversity.

The Red Cross sent 1,600 disaster volunteers to the region.

And across Canada, people opened their hearts and wallets to an extent never before seen.

Millions of Saguenay flood-relief dollars poured into the Canadian Red Cross, adding up to what at the time was the largest collective donation ever in the organization's history.

The televised concert, held in a Montreal hockey arena, alone raised more than $4.3 million in just 151 minutes.

"Canada loves the Saguenay," we heard repeatedly.

And we were proud to be Canadians.

Chicoutimi's dark underbelly of racism

Last night, Garden River's Ted Nolan stood outside another hockey arena, this time in the rebuilt community of Chicoutimi.

If there was any love left over from those warm, fuzzy days of 1996, it was nowhere to be seen in the parking lot of the Georges Vezina Centre.

Instead, Nolan and his Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League experienced the degrading ugliness of racial slurs screamed by a crowd of fans of their QMJHL rivals, the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.

Police intervention was needed to get the former NHL Coach of the Year and his team of junior players safely into the bus.

"I thought hockey was for everybody," the Wildcats coach told sportswriter Neil Hodge of Moncton's Times & Transcript. "I didn't think you had to be a French Canadian to play in this league or coach in this league. It's really sad."

'They need better manners in this town'

"It's a sad statement for this league and a sad statement for hockey in general. I don't know if it's a matter of them needing better security here, but they do need better manners in this town. Maybe in the 1940s this stuff was prevalent, but in modern day there is no place for it."

Nolan and his players were also exposed to persistent racial insults throughout the game, which they lost 4-3 to the Sagueneens.

The coach's voice was trembling afterward as he described what happened, Hodge wrote.

In the late 1600s, Chicoutimi served as an important meeting-place between the aboriginal peoples of northern Quebec and European newcomers.

Over three decades starting in the 1670s, Father François Crépieul, an early missionary, met members of the Mistissini Innu there.

The community was also a major centre for fur-trading between area First Nations and the French.

Radio host advocates killing Indians

In 1994, aboriginal and civil-rights groups complained to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission about two local radio stations that repeatedly referred to native peoples as "savages."

After the complaints were received, Radiomutuel Inc. agreed that the term was pejorative when used to describe Amerindians, and promised to prohibit use of the word by its program hosts.

One Chicoutimi radio personality was also accused in November 1994 of suggesting shooting Indians as a way to resolve Quebec's social problems.

"I thought this kind of stuff happened a long, long time ago. It brings back a lot of bad memories. That's what it does," Nolan said after last night's game.

"I mean the racial slurs that we listened to throughout the game were just disgusting ... It was really a bad night."

Tell Ted what you think

If you'd like to send a message of hometown support to Ted Nolan, please click here.

To share your feelings with Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay, click on this.

And feel free to post a copy of your messages in the News Response forum on SooToday.com's Editorials page.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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