August 7, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green

I found this article by Jane Taber in today's Globe and Mail. I'd never heard of Georges Laraque before but his story is so interesting.

Tough guy Laraque just a gentle green giant

Jane Taber

Georges Laraque, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound hockey enforcer, remembers sobbing like a baby in his Boston hotel room after watching Earthlings, a movie about cruelty to animals and human dependence on animals for food and the economy.

He was on a road trip, had nothing else to do and decided to watch the film, which had been recommended by a friend.

That was more than a year ago. And it was where he started along his path to veganism and a concern for the environment. It led him to the Green Party; he joined the party in February and last week became a new deputy co-leader. His is a voluntary position.

“I watched it and ‘oh my God’ … and then that was it. I had to stop [eating meat.] I remember I was about to order room service and I was like ‘um, what am I going to eat?’’’

The hotel didn’t have a vegetarian menu, so he ended up going to a corner store and buying a bunch of broccoli. His fridge is now full of it.

Mr. Laraque, 33, is larger than life. He loves Green Party leader Elizabeth May, noting that her passion persuaded him to take on his new role.

As someone who is well-known, as well as being a Quebecker who has lived out West, she figured he could have an impact on the process.

His message? He wants to raise awareness of the Green Party and environmental issues. More than that, he wants Canadians to get involved in the process and not take their vote for granted.

Since becoming deputy leader, he has done about 20 interviews a day. Ms. May may be on to something.
Well-spoken, enthusiastic and highly entertaining, Mr. Laraque is, however, full of contradictions.

Describing himself as “passionate and sensitive,” he was the guy whose role it was to punch out other players during his 12 years in the NHL.

He fought, he says, because it “was my job.” It was never something he liked to do.
During his career (he was also a solid forward) he played for Edmonton, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and the Montreal Canadiens.

Last season did not end well for him as the Canadiens sent him home in January, announcing in June they had bought out the final season of his $4.5-million contract.

But Mr. Laraque is as unlikely a hockey player as he is a politician. Born in Montreal, his parents left Haiti when they were in their 20s. Mr. Laraque was an unusual face in a game that does not attract a lot of minorities. He experienced racism on the ice.

His immigrant parents, he says, suffered at the rink, bundled up “like Eskimos” and hating the cold.
Spiritual, community-minded, Mr. Laraque devotes a lot of his time to charity.

Along with the National Hockey League Players’ Association, he has raised more than $1-million for a children’s hospital in Haiti, a cause he took up after the devastation of the earthquake last January. He wants to raise $4-million.

It has always been his ambition to save the planet, he said. “I was always spiritual and ever since I made the NHL, I always told God that with [being well-known] I would try to do great things.”

But with fame and success comes criticism, such as recently being taken to task in the blogosphere for driving a gas-guzzling truck while embracing environmental causes.

To that, he says, he is planning to buy a hybrid truck and besides, he maintains that a truck-driving vegan is better on the environment than a Prius-driving carnivore.

“When I see people criticize me because I joined the party, I actually feel sorry for them,” he says. “I am trying to make the environment better for them.”

But he is not trying to run for office.

He has causes that he doesn’t want to give up yet – the Haitian hospital, his lectures on the Earthling film and his vegan restaurant in Montreal. His mother thought he had joined a “sect” when she found out he was vegan; the Haitian culture, he says, is all about meat.

As well, he thinks he has a lot to learn before trying to win office.

“... environmental and animal issues is not enough ... if I got into a debate with even a rookie in politics, I would get eaten alive.”


Laurie Grassi said...

Good for him, and thanks for sharing! :)

Giulia said...

I liked this & tried to find name of his restaurant in Montreal. For a friend who is moving soon. But I'm coming up blank. Maybe it's right in front of me...

Mary-Laure said...

Very interesting.
It kills me when restaurants have 0 vegetarian option.

The Clever Pup said...

Susan - it's called Crudessence