Welcome Lounges AMA AMA with Anne-Marie Saint-Cerny

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    • Anne-Marie Saint-CernyAnne-Marie Saint-Cerny
      Moderator
      Post count: 4

      Ask Me Anything

      with Anne-Marie Saint-Cerny

      thin air winnipeg international writers festival international ecrivains logo

      Anne-Marie Saint-Cerny has been a social and environmental activist in various NGOs for over thirty-five years. Videographer, essayist, and novelist, her book-length piece of investigative journalism Mégantic, Une tragédie annoncée (Éditions Écosociété, 2018) was in its original French edition the winner of the 2018 prix Pierre-Vadeboncoeur, a finalist for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Awards for Non-Fiction, and was listed for the 2019 Prix des libraires.

      Saint-Cerny participated in the launch of the NGO Fondation Rivières, where she served as vice-president and then general manager, opposing private dams, the harnessing of the Rupert and Romaine Rivers, and campaigning for the preservation of vital watercourses.

      Since 2008, as general manager of the Société pour vaincre la pollution (SVP), she has been involved in several investigations on instances of ecological contamination by large corporations, notably the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster and several Canadian mining projects. In 2018, she co-founded Québec’s Association des victimes de l’amiante (AVAQ). She was also present in Lac-Mégantic during the full aftermath of the rail disaster and has supported the actions of victims and local committees since 2013. She was the Green Party’s 2015 federal candidate for the riding Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. 

    • Joy RenwickJoy Renwick
      Participant
      Post count: 16

      Bonjour Anne-Marie. Apologies–I can only ask my question in English…

      I know you are a videographer as well as a writer. Do you feel that these two ways of storytelling influence one another? Do you prefer one over the other?

      • Anne-Marie Saint-CernyAnne-Marie Saint-Cerny
        Moderator
        Post count: 4

        Hi Joy,
        I apologise for the technical problems! Excellent question!As you very rightly say, it is a question of storytelling, good storytelling. In my case, I don’t know why,I work with a film in my head. Be it for my novels or for essays, I tend to « cut to the next scene». It is how I move the story. It was specially true for Megantic, because it was a very complex story, with many decors, «actors», feelings hard to integrate in an otherwise investigation, etc. I first didn’t know how to do it, and to follow the head editing, like a movie,helped.It came out sometimes like a film, with flashforward, flashbacks, etc. I wanted it to be gripping, not dry, and closer to authenticity possible, and my model, in that sense, was very much Anthony Bourdain’docs.
        I do think that in 2020, every type of storytelling enriches one another, graphic novels, video games writing, etc. In that sense, we are very lucky to be able to break boxes and bring new ways of telling a story. I always found categories are a downer! As for which one I prefer, I like very much writing, crafting words. I is more free. But film is also interesting !

    • Kristen WittmanKristen Wittman
      Participant
      Post count: 1

      Bonjour – I cannot ask my question in French, I apologize: Lac Megantique was a horrible disaster that was the result of a train derailment. What do you think about using pipelines instead of train to transport oil?

      • Anne-Marie Saint-CernyAnne-Marie Saint-Cerny
        Moderator
        Post count: 4

        Hi Kristen,
        thanks for being there. Excellent question! Unfortunatly, both are as dangerous because the problem is elsewhere. Our pipelines, even the new ones, show many defects, are sometimes poorly built and many recents accidents were from the new ones. And trains, of course, on their actual tracks are dangerous.Basically, both carry the same very dangerous products and pipelines, because of their debit, can very rapidly cause a tradedy in a community.
        Accidents do happen and we need the dangerous goods. So we have to find a way to transport them with a minimal risk. The problem is in the government, whose mission is to protect us. The companies’mission is to make money. But the governements have totally abdicated their mission, and they don’t stand anymore between the urge to make extreme shareholders profits and the public protection. In all cases, pipelines and trains, the independant inspections – and inspectors – are almost inexistant, the companies decide and make their own rules of security and do their their own auto-surveillance. All that in the more opaque way possible. How can deaths not happen in that context? But it is cheaper for the companies to go on that way than to correct their lack of safety. Hence, for Megantic, CP still has not paid a cent to the survivors.
        The government will of course say that the economic progress… we know the drill. But economy and safety can go together, if the shareholders are made to rein in their overgrown appetites. As the pandemy shows abundantly, the economy eventually collapses if the safety is not there. I hope it answers a bit. And thank you for asking. am

    • Karen San FilippoKaren San Filippo
      Participant
      Post count: 4

      J’imagine que c’est difficile a maintenir des limites quand l’activisme occupe une si grande place dans votre vie. Quels conseils donneriez-vous aux jeunes qui veulent s’exprimer – comment les conseilleriez-vous à cet égard ? J’ai vu tellement de jeunes qui souffrent d’une anxiété environnementale et l’épuisement professionnel et qui sont découragés

    • Alina MooreAlina M
      Keymaster
      Post count: 4

      Note from the THIN 2020: Anne-Marie is experiencing technical difficulties.

    • Anne-Marie Saint-CernyAnne-Marie Saint-Cerny
      Moderator
      Post count: 4

      C’est une question tellement vraie et pertinente ! Être activiste, c’est vrai, peut être décourageant, parce que plusieurs batailles sont perdues. Je dirais même, presque toutes… dans l’immédiat. Il y a ce sentiment d’être inutile, alors même qu’au contraire, on est le plus utile aux autres humains! Face à un diagnostic de cancer, la chose dont j’étais la plus fière était justement d’être activiste, d’avoir tenté de servir à quelque chose.
      Cela dit, il faut survivre. Alors, il y a des règles et des constats. Par exemple, l’activiste passe de héros à zéro, trop glorifié parfois par les victimes et harcelé par les opposants. Il ne faut pas s’énerver, savoir que ce sera le cas, prendre un parapluie (!) et attendre que le vent passe tout en continuant dans ce que l’on croit juste. Autre exemple: il faut savoir arrêter parfois, arrêter à temps, avant que l’on ne craque. Dans mon cas, il y a eu des bouteilles de vin bues à minuit avec mes co-activistes alors que nous venions de perdre une bataille retentissante ! Il faut savoir se retirer le temps de se remettre, de retrouver sa force et de se rediriger. Il n’y a aucune culpabilité à devoir s’arrêter. Au contraire, cela nous permet de s’assurer qu’on est toujours pertinent et axé sur les faits, pas les opinions ou théories. Nous sommes, activistes et gens impliqués, particulièrement sensibles et donc, fragiles.
      Mais, il y a les bons côtés de l’activisme que nul gloire ou argent ne peut acheter.J’ai par exemple, rencontré des gens, fait des expériences uniques et merveilleuses parce que les gens avaient confiance. Je n’étais pas là pour l’argent, et on se comprenait. J’ai une vie intéressante et différente PARCE QUE je suis activiste. Et je ne regrette pas une seule seconde.
      Enfin, un dernier point :On perd nos batailles… mais l’humanité avance, inexorablement grâce à nous. C’est une chaîne humaine étendue sur des siècles qui a rendu l’esclavage illégal. C’est une chaîne humaine sur des décennies qui a permis de mettre les changements climatiques sur la table. On ne perd pas la bataille. Simplement, on ne voit pas l’issue positive toujours durant notre vie.
      J’espère que j’ai pu répondre un peu à votre question. C’est un sujet qui me tient très à coeur et j’aime beaucoup en parler. Salutations ! am

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