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A conversation about the battle over the Battle of the Plains of Abraham


 

wolfe-montcalm-2-1

The planned, announced and now-cancelled recreation of the Plains of Abraham battle (you know: the English beat the French and, yadda yadda, the birth of Canada) has made for a highly-symbolic wintertime psychodrama. Citing undisclosed and nebulous “security threats”, National Battlefields Commission director André Juneau kiboshed the event, which was set to take place this summer. Too much has been written already, so Deux Maudits Anglais had a cross-border chat about it. (Which we have now put into written form. Damn you, cruel irony…) 

MARTY: Well, I hope you’re happy, Philippe Gohier. I’d just bought a brand new tweed blazer, short pants and a proper sunhat in order to take in the festivities on the Plains of Abraham this summer. My God, what a show it would’ve been: The English storming the French, the smell of blood and gunpowder in the air, James Wolfe riding victoriously over the rotting remains of General Montcalm… I was even planning on streaking the field wearing nothing but my Union Jack cape. And now, thanks to all these naughty séparatiste ruffians, my summer plans are dashed. Don’t lie: I can practically see you out there in Toronto, shackled as you are to the English teat, happier than a clam that history has once again been papered over in Quebec.

In all seriousness, though: what the hell?

PHIL: I can’t lie to you, Marty: I am somewhat happy the re-enactment is canceled, though not for the reasons you might suspect. I was afraid that, given all the hubbub, I might actually be sent to cover it. I’ve been pre-emptively bored by the mere thought of having to watch the bloody thing.

That said, I still can’t figure out who comes out a winner in all this nonsense. The National Battlefields Commission looks either wimpy for having cancelled it, or delusional for having thought it was a good idea in the first place. Its opponents, including Marois and Duceppe, seem petty for having gotten involved. And the actors that were putting it on, like the one quoted in The Star lamenting that a bunch of “terrorists” had shut it down, aren’t doing themselves any favours with hyperbolic statements about the historical importance of re-enactments.

MARTY: That’s been the thing that’s struck me–the boredom. I was talking about all this the other day on the radio, and it struck me that we’re the only ones talking about it. As is often the case with many historically significant events in Quebec (see Quebec City’s 400th last year, the anniversary of the Patriotes rebellion this year, or Canada Day any year), it is the politicians and the fringes talking up the wrongs visited upon the province, real or imagined, only to be picked up and broadcast by the press. I seriously have not seen, heard or spoken to a single Quebecer who cares either way about who or what dresses up and shoots at one another for fun and merriment in Quebec City. The Bye-Bye thing was a bigger scandal, because people actually talked about it. Events like the Quebec City reenactment are strictly the realm of a handful of politicians, perpetually infuriated Pierre Falardeau types and, well, us. I think most people are just looking for a party (or, in the case of Canada, a time to move out of their apartment.)

It’s funny; Lagacé wrote a column in which he quoted me making fun of him as we drove by the Plains of Abraham last year. “See that, Patrick? It’s where we kicked your ass,” I said to him. You’d think, listening to the likes of Marois et al., that joking about the conquering of a people would be the height of impropriety, akin to joking about dead babies or slavery. To me, though, it’s about as edgy as a mother-in-law joke. I’m as English as crustless toast, yet I have French, Scottish and Irish blood swimming around my brain. Just about everyone else living here is the same, and those who portend differently are either ignorant or worse.
That said, I’m not against the canceling of the damn thing, if only because dressing up, firing guns at one another and then shaking hands and going home cheapens the actual (very bloody) event.

PHIL: I’m not sure I agree politicians played a significant role in the whole thing. If anything, aside from Duceppe’s and Marois’s half-hearted and belated statements about the whole thing, no one else really stepped up. Charest, in all his hyperbolic glory, has tried to use the cancellation to prove the PQ has ties to violent, fringe movements; the séparatisse-baiting Conservatives haven’t said a word, and even the Liberals, once the champions of no-holds barred strong-armed federalism, couldn’t be bothered to take up the fight. That left the field wide open for the Falardeau/Patrick Bourgeois contingent to take over the debate, which they promptly did. Isn’t it odd to think the hardest of the hard cores has finally won a battle—however symbolic that battle may be—and that, deep down, it just doesn’t matter?

MARTY: Ha! So they’ve won the battle over the Battle, then. But what about the war? The PQ has about four-and-a-half years to wait for another election, and even then they aren’t likely to call a referendum. Charest is still absurdly popular, despite his frequent massaging of the truth recently. What do the purzédurs do in the meantime? They need a war on Christmas, or something.

PHIL: My money’s on a new film project: Elvis Gratton 4: Le king des Plaines.


 

A conversation about the battle over the Battle of the Plains of Abraham

  1. Whatever the real reason for the cancellation, the highlighting of it as a cave-in to the threat of violence is defining precisely the objective of terrorism.

    So those threatening violence have either won outright or won by default. But make no mistake: they won.

  2. So what are they doing to do about Ste. Foy next year?

  3. Separatists like Duceppe and his ilk prefer to deal with utopian dreams of the future. It’s present-day reality or the facts of history they have trouble dealing with. Dealing with the utopian future is so much easier.

    This also shows Quebecers’ ongoing insecurity and inferiority complex that they can’t go ahead with an event like this. What has happened to this once proud people? it’s kind of sad, but mostly it’s kind of boring, that’s what I think of the plight of modern-day Quebec (as I sigh and shake my head).

  4. When would-be domestic terrorists threatened violence, Canada caved. That’s the long and short of it. Expect more threats of violence in the future when the seppies want their way. It works.

  5. And thank you, Mr. Patriquin, for including that photograph. One of the silliest aspect of this ‘scandal’ was the stir caused by the poster showing the English soldier shaking hand with the French soldier. OMG! How offending that is!!! Meanwhile, back in Europe, the French and the English get along famously well. It was their battle and they got over it !

  6. I don’t think people in Quebec don’t care about it. I think most people in Quebec, myself included, just don’t want to celebrate or comemorate this event. The current revisionist tendency of Ottawa is actually quite annoying, must we not forget that 1608 now marks the foundation of Canada. A bit silly on their part isn’t it? One of the fundamental principle of nation building is to forget the delicate parts of history, not rewrite them.

    And maybe Quebecois are less prone to forget that the Abraham heights battle was the start of a domination that didn’t end until about 60 years ago. And that what happened that day is still echoing in daily canadian politics, confining Quebec to eternal constitutionnal limbo. Say what you want. It’s not like we wake-up every morning thinking what a wonderfull place Nouvelle France would have been had the battle went the other way. We just don’t want to hear about it, much less see the damn thing while picnicking.

    @ Lorraine: right, they just freakin LOVE each other over there in Europe. Oh and one of them didn’t rule the other one in submission for 200 years. They are separate country. us, terrorists Quebecois seem to get along pretty well with our Vermont neighbors! Plus I don’t see how anglos and francos in Quebec don’t get along, except for the occasional Loi101 mini scandal, but that’s almost folkloric.

    • That, coupled with the fact that the British side (i.e., many English Canadians whose ancesters have been around for awhile) seem to accept history as stopping at that point. “We won at the Plains of Abraham and that’s how Canada became a country.” Nevermind the Quebec Act of 1791, the rebellions, the American Civil War, no, none of these things had anything to do with it. It was all because of the Plains of Abraham.

      So celebrating the ONE historical event that English Canada will never forget seems misguided, to me. We should be celebrating and highlighting all the rest of it, to learn a thing or two.

      Full disclosure: I am an English Canadian whose ancestors have been around for awhile.

  7. You should take a vacation in Guadeloupe, Philippe-A.

    I did not write that they LOVE each other – you wrote that. I wrote that they get along famously well – and I maintain that. By the way, one did rule the other for hundreds of years – and imposed its language in the courts and its laws, etc. and there is a reenactment of the battle of Hastings every year.

    Anyway, you can picnic in peace at the annual reenactment of the Battle of Ste Foy and enjoy the victory of the French over the English. You are French – you are human, you have emotions – obviously something the English cannot be and cannot have to your eyes.

    • Loraine,

      “I did not write that they LOVE each other – you wrote that. I wrote that they get along famously well – and I maintain that. By the way, one did rule the other for hundreds of years – and imposed its language in the courts and its laws, etc. and there is a reenactment of the battle of Hastings every year.”

      You miss Philippe’s point. England and France are separate countries now. Quebec and Canada are not. If the French were still ruling England and imposing their version of the Battle of Hastings on the English, I bet there would be some English complaining. Just like the federal government imposing the Battle of the Plains of Abraham on Quebec on its terms. And btw, the French did not impose their language, many French intermarried with the Anglo-Saxon peasants and gradually adopted the English language. If Quebec was an independent country, they would stage the Plains of Abraham just fine because it would be under their control, not the control of a propagandist federal government. You don’t see the difference?

      “And thank you, Mr. Patriquin, for including that photograph. One of the silliest aspect of this ’scandal’ was the stir caused by the poster showing the English soldier shaking hand with the French soldier. OMG! How offending that is!!!”

      It is offending because it is disrespecting history. Montcalm and Wolfe and their respective soldiers were enemies, they did not shake hands in real life. I think the real Montcalm would turn over his grave on this photo because he probably disliked Wolfe, who was a war criminal, burning farms and houses of the families. Jean Charest shakes hands with English people all the time and yet we don’t go nuts each time he does that. We go nuts when we see Montcalm shake hands with Wolfe, not because he was an Englishman, but because he was an enemy. And vice-versa. This is a whitewashing of history on the federal government terms and that is offensive. You don’t see the difference?

      You probably don’t because you hate Quebecers and would do anything to demean them. See? I can play this game too.

  8. JMD,

    “When would-be domestic terrorists threatened violence, Canada caved. That’s the long and short of it. Expect more threats of violence in the future when the seppies want their way. It works.”

    Really? How many people have died or been maimed by Quebec separatists? None. Some terrorists they are.

    The “threats of violence” was just an excuse to make the separatists look bad. The real reason the event was canceled was because there was strong opposition to it from both sovereignists and federalists of Quebec such that going ahead with it would tarnish the federal government in the eyes of Quebec and boosts the separatist cause. You are right in one thing, the Commision were cowards, but they were cowards for refusing to admit the real reason the event was cancelled; because it was a bad idea from the start. But no, they prefer to blame the sovereignists using the threat of violence as an excuse. Typical demagoguery from the federal government.

      • Or, look for Wilfred O’Neill, Leslie MacWilliams, Alfred Pinisch, a “64 year old female office worker,” “seriously injur[ed] twenty-seven people” at the Montreal Stock Exchange, a dead police officer, in:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FLQ

      • madeyoulook,

        Typical federalist cheap shot mentioning the long-defunct FLQ. Can the FLQ really be compared to other terrorists groups around the world such as the Basques, and the IRA who killed so many people, and enjoyed public support for their activities? The number of people that died at the hands of the FLQ can be counted on hand and they were usually accidents. I should also mention that most sovereignists has never supported the FLQ and the FLQ died away because of this.

        Sovereignists are commited to achieving independence through peaceful and demcratic means. They were able to accept losing the 1995 referendum with less than 1% of the vote with no violence. In other parts of the world, there would have been violence if that happened. That is proof of their commitment to democratic and peaceful means to achieving independence. Some terrorists they are.

        A few questions for you:

        the FLQ was how long ago?

        Are they still active?

        • Bud, you asked how many were killed or maimed by Quebec separatists, alleging that number to be zero. Not sure how old you might be, pal, but history did not begin with your birth.

          The number of people that (sic) died at the hands of the FLQ can be counted on [one?] hand and they were usually accidents. Interesting. That they were bumbling fool idiot crap terrorists somehow makes them less terrorist?

          You ask, further, are they still active. Not to my knowledge. But ask the proprietors of firebombed Second Cup and McDonald’s outlets of recent years what they think of terrorism in the name of Quebec nationalism.

        • A follow-up question: How many innocent victims have to die for a political cause before you are prepared to call the perpetrators terrorists?

          A pre-emptive question: Do any of us want to know your honest answer to the above question?

          • How many innocent victims have to die for a political cause before you are prepared to call the perpetrators terrorists?

            I don’t about him, but my answer is: quarante-deux.

          • “A follow-up question: How many innocent victims have to die for a political cause before you are prepared to call the perpetrators terrorists?”

            Zero victims. I never said the FLQ were not terrorists. I said they were tame compared to other terrorists around the world. Its all relative. THEY NEVER HAD SUPPORT FROM SOVEREIGNISTS OR FROM QUEBECERS AND SO THEY DIED. The FLQ does not exist since a long time ago, and so, continuing to refer to them to support your case that sovereignists are terrorists is a cheap shot. The FLQ was history.

            “A pre-emptive question: Do any of us want to know your honest answer to the above question?”

            You have my answer. What do you think?

            My question:

            do you think sovereiginists are violent people? Be honest in your answer.

  9. Antonio, a little over an hour ago: Really? How many people have died or been maimed by Quebec separatists? None. Some terrorists they are.

    Antonio, a half-hour ago: Typical federalist cheap shot mentioning the long-defunct FLQ… The number of people that (sic) died at the hands of the FLQ can be counted on [one] hand and they were usually accidents.

    Antonio, about five minutes ago: I never said the FLQ were not terrorists.

    And, the pièce de résistance (ooh, savour the silly pun): continuing to refer to them to support your case that sovereignists are terrorists is a cheap shot. Mon cher souverainiste, I have not once ever accused sovereignists of being terrorists, or even violent people. I was not even continually referring to them. I was merely correcting your misstatement above by pointing out that some terrorists have indeed been Quebec separatists. If some A’s are B, it does not follow that all B’s are A. But I forgive you. Quebec sovereignists may have a romantic notion of nationhood, but one cannot accuse them of an abundance of logic.

    • madeyoulook,

      First of all, I was speaking of current events. Is the FLQ a current event? You are nitpicking by picking the FLQ out of history to support your argument that some sovereignists are terrorists.

      second of all, you took my comments out of context because my original post was made to JMD, not to you, who basically said that separatists are terrorists. You then decided to join in on his side.

      Why don’t give him your lesson in logic in setting him straight on his blanket statement separatists-are -terrorists instead of a poor sovereignist such as I who has such a romantic notion of nationhood and is deficient in logic.

      But its ok. I forgive you.

      • I’d give JMD a lesson in logic, but for the fact that he does not require one. JMD did not state that separatists are terrorists, at least, he did not state that all separatists are terrorists. JMD’s point is that if violence or the threat of violence is rewarded with complying with the demand, you should expect more violence or threats of violence in the future. Rewarding ugly behaviour shall encourage future ugly behaviour. It’s a simple little lesson that has actually been playing out worldwide in the last several years, if we would care to pay attention.

        The “current events” dodge is just that, particularly since you discount the FLQ’s terrorist credentials because (a) they were bumbling idiot amateurs, (b) the public recoiled in horror at their brutality, (c) some mix of a & b. That I am taking JMD’s side is your perception, but then, given what you have demonstrated so far, I am reaching for another grain of salt.

        Any time you want to just give up…

    • That was a very nice pun.

      I’d stop arguing with logic, madeyoulook. Gut instinct and emotion trump it every time.

      Also, Antonio, I don’t think madeyoulook implies that sovereignists are violent people or terrorists. However, it does nobody any good to ignore the actions of some radical separatists in the 1960s, or label them as not being ‘terrorism’. The separatism movement moved away from that sort of radicalism for the most part, although I am personally acquainted with a few gentlemen whom one could argue would disagree, but it still failed to choose logic over emotion. The fact that there are people becoming angry over historical reenactments is simply proof of the fact that, even if one believes (as I do) that at one point in our history there may have been a logical basis for separation, sovereignty-association, etc., this simply is no longer the case. This is not to say that there are no battles left to fight, (the military isn’t perfect, but it is getting better) but it does mean that any logical, dispassionate arguments for separatism have been rendered mostly redundant. Emotion is great for art, but it is a poor thing to base a nation on.

  10. More fun with logic:
    Really? How many people have died or been maimed by Quebec separatists? None. Some terrorists they are.

    The above statement would be factually and logically correct if:
    –the dead victims of the FLQ were not actually people;
    –the maimed victims of the FLQ were not actually people;
    –the FLQ were not advocating Quebec separation;
    –there is a new definition of “none” to which we have not yet been introduced.

    If Antonio would kindly point out which of the above four applies…

    • madeyoulook,

      don’t be a smart ass. I was a bit ambiguous in my statement but I was speaking of current events. If I had added a few keywords to my statement such as

      Really? How many people have died or been maimed by Quebec separatists SO FAR? None. Some terrorists they are.

      Really? SO FAR, how many people have died or been maimed by Quebec separatists? None. Some terrorists they are.

      Really? IN ALL OF HISTORY, how many people have died or been maimed by Quebec separatists? None. Some terrorists they are.

      then you would have a case.

      • You must admit, it could be read as though you were saying the above.

      • Alrighty then. If you can only remember an event because you read about it in a history book, it’s not important. Check. Gotcha. Thanks.

        Would you then care to comment on the vandalized / firebombed establishments that sport the dreaded symbol of Her Majesty’s brutal imperial oppression (that would be the offensive apostrophe) or other dastardly symbols like the words “Second” and “Cup.” But then, silly me, none of those events occurred in the last month, let alone today, so cancel the present tense, and cancel any need to discuss. “Je me souviens” seems to have become rather, how-you-say, selective.

        And so shall I reiterate: Any time you want to just give up…

        • Cue the apologist line “But those restaurants were empty at the time; they were just trying to scare the businesses and their customers to make a point, oh, hey, wait aminute, what I meant to say was…”

        • “Alrighty then. If you can only remember an event because you read about it in a history book, it’s not important. Check. Gotcha. Thanks.”

          Talking about the FLQ which has not existed for more than 30 years is not a current event. I was talking about current events. Come on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          “Would you then care to comment on the vandalized / firebombed establishments that sport the dreaded symbol of Her Majesty’s brutal imperial oppression (that would be the offensive apostrophe) or other dastardly symbols like the words “Second” and “Cup.” But then, silly me, none of those events occurred in the last month, let alone today, so cancel the present tense, and cancel any need to discuss. “Je me souviens” seems to have become rather, how-you-say, selective.”

          these are nothing more than isolated incidents. Has anyone ever died or been maimed by these??????????????????????????????????????????? No. So my statement still stands. Hate crime exists everywhere including in your beloved Canada.

          • Seven minutes late for your cue, Antonio. Otherwise, quite reliably apologist.

          • isolated incidents
            I agree to an extent, but there is something about that final ‘s’..

    • Better take note, you wont catch me agreeing with myl too often. What’s more, in my opinion, the actions taken by Ottawa and not just the reluctance of sovereigntists led to the end of the FLQ!

      • The imprisoning people without charges probably wasn’t the best idea, especially as all of the FLQ members were in fact found using normal police procedures.
        As to agreeing with MYL, I know, me too. It’s odd… I have agreed with him twice, and in both cases it was about QC and language.

        • Sophie, I’m touched. You still remember your first time…
          :)

        • Sophie
          If you watch Trudeau’s memoirs it’s evident the he wasn’t aware of the full scope of the round-ups, and was amused to see people that he knew on their list. Who that was god only knows!

      • “Better take note, you wont catch me agreeing with myl too often. What’s more, in my opinion, the actions taken by Ottawa and not just the reluctance of sovereigntists led to the end of the FLQ!”

        Do some more research. Many historians agree that Laporte’s murder shocked Quebcers and so they turned their backs on the FLQ and made a commitment that the consitutional question of Quebec would be settled by democratic and peaceful means. The PQ was then elected just a few years later in 1976. the FLQ then died because the population was not supporting them. This is not the case of other terrorist groups around the world.

        • Antonio
          I confess no expertise on Quebec issues – i haven’t been there in almost 30yrs – so i’ll take yr word for how Laportes death shocked Quebecers. However if Trudeau had caved as many Q elites wanted him to, Levesque [sp?] included more deaths may well have ensued. People who have ruthlessly killed are not much moved by public sentiment. However i can see how Q’s reactions would be something to feel pride in.

      • kc, trust me, it is no sin in any religion I am aware of to agree with myl once in a while. May your soul feek comforted by that reassurance.

        Furthermore, I am far more willing to credit the near-unanimous recoil-in-horror in Quebec for the end of this batch of terrorist scum. Mr. Just-Watch-Me’s response to Bourassa’s request was hailed by some, reviled by others, but likely deserves way less credit than you are offering.

        • Since Trudeau’s actions and the decline of the FLQ are somewhat consequent we can never know what absence of action would have produced. Certainly a less blunt instument then the WMA may well have helped later, in Trudeau’s case anyway.

  11. “This is not to say that there are no battles left to fight, (the military isn’t perfect, but it is getting better) but it does mean that any logical, dispassionate arguments for separatism have been rendered mostly redundant. Emotion is great for art, but it is a poor thing to base a nation on.”

    There are non-emotional arguments for the independence of Quebec. Unless the federal government recognizes that Quebec is a nation and distinct from the rest of Canada, and have it written in the constitution, Quebec needs to be independent. Quebecers wants the freedom to manage their own taxes in order to create a society that is French-speaking without interference from the federal government. This federal government intrusion into Quebec affairs with this silly Plains of Abraham reenactment without consulting Quebecers is one example of interference that Quebec can do without.

    There are logical, dispassionate arguments for Quebec independence too.

    • Antonio, where you cease to be logcial is your third sentence. Quebecers wants the freedom to manage their own taxes in order to create a society that is French-speaking
      This uses as very antiquated train of thought, that nations must or should be divided along linguistic, ethnic or religious lines. It has no place in the 21st-century Western world.
      Also, it is my personal belief that the survival of the French fact in North America is because of, rather than in spite of, its association with Canada. Look at what has happened to the significant French-Canadian diasporas throughout the eastern seaboard of the United States- they have almost died out, and certainly any political power they may have ever held has vanished. Contrast this with Qc in Canada.

      • “Also, it is my personal belief that the survival of the French fact in North America is because of, rather than in spite of, its association with Canada. Look at what has happened to the significant French-Canadian diasporas throughout the eastern seaboard of the United States- they have almost died out, and certainly any political power they may have ever held has vanished. Contrast this with Qc in Canada.”

        I disagree, the survival of the French fact has to do with the strong French community that already existed before the Conquest and due to the previously high birth rate. It was also due by the British and Canadian fear of the USA. The expansion -mindedUSA was threat to Britain and Canada throughout the 19th and early 20th century. They needed Quebec cooperation in order to resist the. They needed French cooperation but it hasn’t stopped them from trying to assimilate them until the rise of the sovereignty movement in the 1960s forced Canada to back off.

        It was despite Canada that the French managed to survive so far.

        I am going to bed now.

        • Have a good night, but…
          you spent a long time telling MYL that the FLQ was ‘ancient history’
          Strangely enough, the ‘assimilation’ to which you refer is even more ancient, and the time wherein the Business and Political worlds were controlled completely by Anglophones have long since passed.

          ….
          Wow. Suddenly, I miss that RObin something-or-other anglophone Qc separatist from Ontario.

          • Sophie,

            I am glad you are civil and are willing to argue with respect and with reason.

            “you spent a long time telling MYL that the FLQ was ‘ancient history’
            Strangely enough, the ‘assimilation’ to which you refer is even more ancient, and the time wherein the Business and Political worlds were controlled completely by Anglophones have long since passed.”

            You started off using history in your arguments. You were saying that the survival of the French fact was due to Canada, so I was just responding back with my own historical argument that I believe that it was despite Canada. The sovereignty movement of Quebec is not just for historical reasons but also for ethnic, societal and financial reasons.

            I hope you had a good night too, Sophie

        • Bon dodo, Antonio.

          Is he asleep? Good. Who wants to play the tape under his pillow, the one about the Constitution of Canada, as far back as 1867, entrenching a bilingual federal and New Brunswick government, a French Quebec government, about all those Westmount Rhodesians taking their money and their head offices out of Quebec to permit the c’est normal French face to suddenly become obvious.

          This one will give him nightmares, because the history goes back centuries, but there was something about solidifying French civil law and the Catholic church within a bastion of the Empire. Some enterprising federalist creep went and put that on the flip side of the tape.

          But then, the cassette tape is so bloody historical it shall not be recognized by Antonio. Look at him, so cute, with that little bit of drool on the pillow… Where was I? Oh, yes, can someone put that audio on a new-fangled MP3 player — monsieur modernité might recognize it then.

          • And they wonder why the battle re-enactment was had to be cancelled…

        • Antonio, I’d just like to point out that English Canada’s textbook version of the events following the rebellions is a, well, we were putting one over on the old Mother country, you know? Sadly, many of us then believed our own spin. And now so are you.

          But if you put the emotion back into the writing of Lord Durham’s report, and you examine the man that he was, you will plainly see that the whole thing is a tongue in cheek exercise in giving the British Parliament what they wanted to hear.

          The thing that allowed French to survive is the combining of the two colonies AT THAT TIME, when French citizens outnumbered English citizens by something like three to one. It was a terrible thing at the time, making equal partners of such a clear majority. The only thing is, when English citizens outnumbered French citizens several years later, they were STILL equal partners! I will never be convinced that Durham didn’t see this coming. I will never be convinved that he didn’t do it on purpose.

    • I honestly haven’t being following this story. But i assume that the feds involment is yet more ham handed politicking on the cons part. if they insist on doing this they should do so on their dime and not mine. Oh god one defence of myl and i’ve become a scold, better shut up!

  12. What I like most about Antonio’s attempts this evening:

    Firebombing restaurants: No one was hurt, not important.
    FLQ / October Crisis: Ancient history, minor-league “tame” terrorists, only a few people died, not important.
    Oppression of les canadiens français by les maudits: Evil assimilation, relevant history though more ancient than the ancient 1960s, never to be forgotten.
    Plains of Abraham: relevant history, though more ancient than the 1960s (what’s a couple of centuries between oppressor and oppressee, hein?) with still-festering sores that you just want to rub in my face.

    So, it seems, only some history seems to matter to Antonio. Je me souviens quand ça me tente.

    • MYL: When we’ll do re-enactments of those Firebombing and of the October Crisis, you’ll get to complaint as much as you want. Deal?

      • Hey, I ain’t the one complaining. I merely jumped in at the entirely nonsensical “nobody died at the hand of Quebec separatists” crap. Is all.

        • “Hey, I ain’t the one complaining. I merely jumped in at the entirely nonsensical “nobody died at the hand of Quebec separatists” crap. Is all.”

          Wrong.

          For a long time, nobody died at the hands of Quebec separatists. Which is true.

          • I think we can all agree that the Quebec Separatist movement has been one of the most nonviolent separatist movements in the history of the world. It’s all relative. We are indeed fortunate to be living in a country like Canada.

          • Absolutely.
            However, to say nobody is both an exaggeration and disrespectful to the dead.
            Has there been a lack of violence that is wonderful?
            Yes, thank God.
            But to say ‘nobody’ is a blatant misrepresentation.

  13. This whole debate is disgusting. There is nothing noble about defeat? Only the victorious count, eh?

    Tell that to the hundreds of dead Canadian militiamen who fell in the dénouement of the battle, the encounter between the Highlanders and the militia in the woods north of the main battlefield. In the words of C. P. Stacey, the most exact 20th C historian:

    The short violent clash between the two firing-lines was not quite the end of the battle . . . The pursuers did not have things all their own way. This was particularly the case on the northern flank. Here, just east of the ground on which Montcalm had formed his line, was a considerable wooded area. Under its cover and that of the hill sloping down to the St. Charles, some hundreds of Canadians made a stand which checked the British for some time. . . . there seems to be little doubt that it was the local militia, fighting from cover in their traditional manner, which made it possible for the beaten army to make good its escape across the bridges to the Beauport camp.

    — C. P. Stacey, Quebec, 1759: The Siege and the Battle, pp. 170-171.

    From this action, fought after it was entirely clear that the battle itself was lost, which enabled the saving of the army, derived the chance to continue the campaign, regroup in Montreal over the winter, march down to Quebec in the spring, and fight the victorious battle of Ste. Foy under Lévis. In other words, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was not the definitive conclusion of the war or the “Conquest” and that was because of the heroism of the ordinary Canadian miliamen. Moreover, it is thought that the militiamen actually took and inflicted more casualties than the British took and inflicted in the main exchange of fire: this was not a sideshow, this was the saving of the army.

    Only in Quebec — no, excuse me, only anywhere in the whole modern world — could a heroic stand like that be something to make people ashamed. Why? Because super-nationalist Quebeckers, like mildly nationalist Quebeckers, like federalist Quebeckers, like Canadians of all stripes, like citizens of the modern world everywhere and anywhere, are completely indifferent to real history and can only see things in terms of “symbols,” “turning-points,” black-and-white constructions that make Biblical allegories look like statistical analyses. I challenge these so-called Quebec patriots who kicked up this big fuss — kicked it up not over the details of the representation, but over the very fact that the Battle would be commemorated — to go to the Cimitière des héros and officially announce to the dead that their sacrifice was a cause of shame, that only military victories count for anything. Take your time, they’re not going anywhere.

    • Jack Mitchell

      “Only in Quebec — no, excuse me, only anywhere in the whole modern world — could a heroic stand like that be something to make people ashamed. ”

      Where have Quebecers stated that they are ashamed of the defenders that lost the battle?
      How does the cancellation of the reenactment of the battle be an insult to those heroic defenders? If anything, the reenactment is an insult to those defenders because Wolfe and his army, who are the enemies of those defenders, are seen in a glorious light in the reenactment. Is that not disrespecting the heroic stand of the defenders? Wolfe and Montcalm shaking hands when both were enemies, is that not disrespecting history and the sacrifice of those heroic defenders?

      “Because super-nationalist Quebeckers, like mildly nationalist Quebeckers, like federalist Quebeckers, like Canadians of all stripes, like citizens of the modern world everywhere and anywhere, are completely indifferent to real history and can only see things in terms of “symbols,” “turning-points,” black-and-white constructions that make Biblical allegories look like statistical analyses.”

      Quebecers know everything about the battle; they have been taught about it in the history books and they appreciate the defenders that fought for them and lost.

      Your entire post is completely ridiculous, a feeble attempt to find anything of justification for the reenactment.

      • Actually, Antonio, I know whereof I speak. In my considerable experience in talking about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham — I have a Homeric (i.e. balanced) epic poem on the subject you might like, http://www.plainsofabraham.ca — I have found that Quebeckers were only marginally more aware of the details of the battle. (They have all, of course, heard of it.)

        I would not say that even educated Quebeckers are much aware of Ste. Foy.

        What is wrong with glorifying both sides? Wolfe & his troops didn’t have plans to “conquer” Canada, they were overcoming the (mainly French) defenders as part of the world-wide conflict that was the Seven Years’ War. (As is well known, if the French negotiators had felt the slightest bit of duty towards their subjects in New France, Quebec would not have been swapped for the sugar trade.) Believe me, I’ve been through all the primary sources on the British side (and a lot on the French side), and at no point do the Brits ever say, “We have come here to conquer this domaine for ever and ever.” They were just soldiers fighting a campaign; they weren’t even particularly anti-French in their feelings (as the American colonists were).

        Finally, I would say that the Star Wars-style narrative that Quebec separatists insist on imposing on the battle does very little to commemorate the sacrifice of the Canadian militia of 1759. If one does not treat one’s enemy (even historically) with dignity, one robs oneself of dignity too. The 18th century lived by that code, and the 19th C destroyed it. Glad to see you’re still on hand to represent the 19th C, Antonio, albeit at the expense of your dignity.

        So, no, your post is completely ridiculous, a feeble attempt, etc. Oh, it is pitiful, pitiful, etc.

        • Jack Mitchell,

          “Wolfe & his troops didn’t have plans to “conquer” Canada, they were overcoming the (mainly French) defenders as part of the world-wide conflict that was the Seven Years’ War.”

          No, he had always planned to conquer Canada. Pitt tasked Wolfe with that objective. Where did you hear this nonsense? Why was Britain fighting the Seven Years War? To get the French possessions overseas.

          “Believe me, I’ve been through all the primary sources on the British side (and a lot on the French side), and at no point do the Brits ever say, “We have come here to conquer this domaine for ever and ever.” They were just soldiers fighting a campaign; they weren’t even particularly anti-French in their feelings (as the American colonists were).”

          It seems you didn’t try hard enough to go through the primary sources. William Pitt, the leader of Britain, was well-known for his hatred of France. And Britain at the time was a francophobic society. There is plenty of documentary evidence that Britain planned the conquest ever since the end of the Austrian Succession, the previous war. Britain needed time to rebuild their forces and to find an ally in Europe to fight the French in Europe so that Britain can go after the French possessions overseas.

          One example of such documentary evidence is a 1755 map, just before the war, in which the British distributed throughout Europe claiming that New France were invalid and that they were actually English possessions. New France, according to this map, was reduced to only the territory around Quebec and Montreal probably because the English thought at the time that they were impregnable. See the link: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?ammem/gmd:@field(NUMBER+@band(g3300+ar002800))

          You should also look into on the colonial newspapers of the 13 Colonies at the time. They were clamoring for the war as an opportunity to take New France and kick the French out of the continent.

          You are just like the federal government, pretending to have the facts and truth of history but you are just another propagandist whitewashing history to support your federalist ideals and to demean Quebecers once more.

          “Finally, I would say that the Star Wars-style narrative that Quebec separatists insist on imposing on the battle does very little to commemorate the sacrifice of the Canadian militia of 1759.”

          They do. Every Quebecer appreciates the sacrifice of the Canadian militia. All of them may not know the details of the battle or the war of the Conquest, but that that does not mean they are ashamed of the of their ancestors that fought and lost that day. They know they did their best.

          “If one does not treat one’s enemy (even historically) with dignity, one robs oneself of dignity too.”

          No. One should learn the facts of history and then judge if the enemy deserves dignity. I don’t consider Wolfe with dignity because he was a war criminal even at the standards of the time. A proper reenactment should be neutral in history, present the facts and then let the people decide. By presenting Wolfe in glory without mentioning the farms and countryside he destroyed to terrorize the population is not good reenactment but biased and offensive to the French side. A good reenactment should be neutral and just present the facts. The people should then decide and judge for themselves.

          Why not reenact the deportation of the Acadians just before the war? After all, its part of history.It is education, isn’t it?

          Your post is once again ridiculous.

          • Antonio, what is the point of debating me if you insist on treating me with scorn? You need a new hobby apart from chauvinism.

            Anyway, what did you think of my poem?

          • Jack Mitchell,

            I apologize.

            For some reason, your last post got under my skin.

            We can continue debating if you want to. I promise that I will be civil.

          • Oh, please do. (I’m responding to Antonio’s apology to Jack, if it doesn’t appear there)

            I find this very interesting, most particularly because I don’t really think you guys are that far apart in your views, and they are more in-depth views, more nuanced if you will, than the usual French-English Plains of Abraham debates.

          • Well, my first post was definitely aimed at the distant bleachers, so I can’t blame you for being a bit agitated when you were sitting in the front row.

            All I mean to say is that I think, as a non-Quebecker, that Quebec deserves to have a non-antagonistic relationship to its past. I don’t mean turning the page and forgetting about the period from 1763 to the Quiet Revolution — I’m very opposed to forgetting — but at least ceasing to portray historical events in terms of contemporary politics.

            Re: Wolfe, who seems to be the key figure here, the reaction against the reenactment is, in my view, a reaction against anglo-Canadian views of Wolfe that prevailed until the 1970’s. “Wolfe the dauntless hero” etc. — they really hammed it up; and since that coincided with the strong pro-British chauvinism of yesteryear, it’s doubly offensive.

            What I would emphasise is that English Canada has completely altered its view of Wolfe — unfortunately not by seeing him more neutrally but simply by forgetting about him. I’m 32, and he was not portrayed as the dauntless hero in my textbooks; my parents’ generation was the last to be subjected to that, and they tended to be hostile to Britain anyway. It just feels like in this controversy the hardcore Quebec nationalists are blaming us ROC’ians for an attitude we don’t have anymore and have hardly had in living memory. That’s why the hostility to the reenactment seems so irrational to us, even though it would seem eminently rational if we still saw the Battle of the Plains of Abraham as the “birth of English Canada” or some such old-school rubbish.

            Anyway, my wish (expressed in my epic poem) would be that we could arrive at a compromise that doesn’t offend either side. That’s why I chose Homer as my model — unlike later epic poets, he treats both sides with great respect. Of course, one can’t ignore Wolfe’s serious crimes (in my poem they are what provoke Heaven to condemn him to death in battle), both the shelling of Quebec and the devastation of the North Shore; but everybody from that war has a good deal to answer for. (On the French side, Governor Vaudreuil encouraged his First Nations allies to massacre the colonists of Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts, which they enthusiastically did.)

            Re: “conquest,” I think the word is ambiguous. The American colonists were certainly agitating to invade and conquer and annex New France and do God Knows What to the inhabitants — presumably making them all protestants or expelling them — but that was not the British policy. Britain was, as you say, just looking to sweep up all the French colonies, with Quebec being the toughest nut to crack in that respect: so they invaded Canada because it was there. Pitt may have been anti-French but his was a different attitude from that of the American colonists: 18th C Britain was as integrated into continental civilisation as it ever got, whereas the Americans were (and remain) the heirs of the fiercely anti-French, and more generally anti-Catholic, attitude of 17th C Britain.

            What I mean to say is that the British soldiers besieging Quebec were not aliens from another planet. They felt no personal hatred for the people they were shelling and massacring — for one thing, half of them were continental soldiers of fortune! Neither, tragically, did Montcalm and his officers feel much connection to the colony they were defending: as you know, there was constant bickering between the commanders on the French side and even between the metropolitan troops and the troupes de la marine.

            Where am I going with this? Just to say that there are other ways to look at the defeat of 1759 than as a humiliation. To withstand a siege for six months by a vastly better supplied force backed by a huge navy is not nothing; to recover from defeat as quickly as they did in the winter of 1759-1760 is extremely impressive; to flock to Lévis’ banner as he marched back down to Quebec and won Ste. Foy is very ennobling. But it’s just unappealing in itself, as well as profoundly alienating of us your friendly anglo neighbours, to cast Wolfe and his slogging troops as arch-villains. They may have been ruthless invaders, but they were also quite interesting people — Wolfe himself being a notoriously complex psychological case. It makes a much more interesting story for young Quebeckers to learn if the Canadians’ heroism is set against a background of Montcalm’s impetuosity, Lévis’ stern determination, Wolfe’s fatalism and ruthlessness, etc. etc. And what is not interesting is quickly forgotten, which no one wants.

            Anyway, I do hope you get a chance to read some of my poem, since I’ve only ever had positive feedback on it from Quebeckers of all stripes. (It is in English, of course, because I can’t write good verse in French, but you obviously have English mastered so there you go. I’m in quest of a francophone comrade to collaborate with, btw, and if you know anyone interested have them email me.) Here are a few lines of my characterisation of Wolfe after Montmorency:

            So then the red-haired General Wolfe – grew angry at New France’s folk
            He burned each parish’s rich fields – that stretched down to St. Lawrence’ banks
            He wrecked the barns and homes – and burnt the crops – and broke the wooden ploughs
            Until at last his soldiers sacked – a sacred church and slew its priest
            Joachim’s consecrated temple – echoed with his dying cry
            That Heaven should avenge his death – and smite the English general
            And so it came to pass – for Heaven’s power – afflicted General Wolfe

            I think that is about the right way to portray Wolfe.

          • Jack, as to being taught about Wolfe and Montcalm, I know that even within Qc, we didn’t seem to spend very much time on the actual facts of the issue. Granted, this was my first year of secondary school, so I remember it rather poorly, but most of what I remember from that section of that course is the focus our teacher, through his rants, gave to its effects upon modern-day (and 20th century) society.
            Then again, it’s entirely possible that I misremember the entire course, as the talent of the authors of our textbook to take conquest and make it dull (how does one accomplish that?) was truly unsurpassed, and probably remains so 7 years later.

          • As to your poem-
            I feel the need, now, to apologize to my professor of Anglo-Saxon Literature (in my defense, I ran out of first-year French, Canadian, and South African lit courses (I like books) and wasn’t feeling brave or masochistic enough for Poetry of the African Diaspora, Russian, Hungarian or Indian) because now I actually have seen Caesuras and alliteration in real life.


            I’m still waiting to see a kenning.

          • Jack Mitchell,

            “It just feels like in this controversy the hardcore Quebec nationalists are blaming us ROC’ians for an attitude we don’t have anymore and have hardly had in living memory. That’s why the hostility to the reenactment seems so irrational to us, even though it would seem eminently rational if we still saw the Battle of the Plains of Abraham as the “birth of English Canada” or some such old-school rubbish.”

            I don’t see it that way. There are a lot of people in ROC that views the Conquest as a good thing for Quebec and that Quebecers should be grateful that Montcalm lost. Juneau, the head of the Commission, was on record saying that the reenactment of the Plains of Abraham was an opportunity to sell Canada to Quebec by implying that the Conquest was a great thing that happened to Quebec. I don’t subscribe to that view.

            “Anyway, my wish (expressed in my epic poem) would be that we could arrive at a compromise that doesn’t offend either side.”

            That is difficult to achieve. We all have biases. The federal government and English Canada might want to portray the event with an slant to the glorious British victory, or worse, by casting the French as villains and the English as heroes, which would be offensive to Quebecers. The reverse is true, if Quebecers were in control, they probably would slant the event to the glorious defense of the French or worse, by casting the English as bad guys and the French as heroes which would be offensive to the English Canada side. The only way that the reenactment could be done without offending either side is by presenting the event without glorifying or condemning one side over the other. Just present the facts and let the people decide for themselves. This is hard to achieve because we are all human and have biases.

            Even if the reenactment could be done to good taste, I still wouldn’t go ahead with it because the federal government is holding it and because of the consequences that the event brought. The battle completed the Conquest which led to the extinction of the French language in the continent and Quebec continues to struggle to preserve the French fact here against an continent of anglophones. This is is not something that Quebec wants to celebrate. We can remember the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, we are not trying to forget it, but we don’t want a reenactment of it, especially under the control of the federal government. As long as the reenactment is under the control of the federal government, who are the inheritors of the British victors in the battle, Quebecers would be uneasy with the reenactment because they feel it is a celebration of the French defeat.

          • Antonio —

            “There are a lot of people in ROC that views the Conquest as a good thing for Quebec and that Quebecers should be grateful that Montcalm lost.”

            I have never met a single one of them, and I’ve been trying to educate Canadians about the Seven Years’ War for ten years. Of course there are random idiots on the Internet, but that’s true on literally any issue. The vast majority of ROC’ians do not identify with Wolfe and don’t have any opinion on the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. That’s just a fact. The sad part is that most of them have never heard of the battle.

            “Juneau, the head of the Commission, was on record saying that the reenactment of the Plains of Abraham was an opportunity to sell Canada to Quebec by implying that the Conquest was a great thing that happened to Quebec. I don’t subscribe to that view.”

            Well, if that really is Juneau’s view, it’s a bit of a stretch, to say the least. I don’t see how you can talk about events of 250 years ago as a good or bad thing. Was the Russian revolution a good thing or a bad thing? Who can say, when we don’t know what would have happened to Russia if it had stayed under the Tsars?

            Anyway, if you want my “What If” view (silly as those are), it’s that the American colonists were so fervently convinced of their own divine mission to own the whole North American continent that they would have eventually attacked and overwhelmed New France in the St. Lawrence (they attacked in 1775 and 1812, remember). Because of their strength, and because they were even less respectful of French culture than the Brits, they would probably have been brutal to the people of New France. Or maybe France would have gotten serious about sea power (not to mention colonisation) and resisted them. Or maybe . . . the permutations of this kind of thing are infinite.

            “Anyway, my wish (expressed in my epic poem) would be that we could arrive at a compromise that doesn’t offend either side.”

            That is difficult to achieve. We all have biases. The federal government and English Canada might want to portray the event with an slant to the glorious British victory, or worse, by casting the French as villains and the English as heroes, which would be offensive to Quebecers. The reverse is true, if Quebecers were in control, they probably would slant the event to the glorious defense of the French or worse, by casting the English as bad guys and the French as heroes which would be offensive to the English Canada side.”

            Which is why we (ahem) need poets. In ancient Ireland, they actually realised this for contemporary battles, and the two sides would each send their poet off to a high hill overlooking the battlefield, where the two of them would confer while the battle was being fought, working out a epic description of the event that was acceptable to both sides. I get the feeling that, in spite of my throwing myself on you like a maiden on a chivalrous knight, you have not glanced at my poem. Here’s the link to the text:

            http://www.plainsofabraham.ca/images/PlainsofAbraham(2007Text).pdf

            “The battle completed the Conquest which led to the extinction of the French language in the continent and Quebec continues to struggle to preserve the French fact here against an continent of anglophones.”

            Well, that’s not really true, as I pointed out above. The battle was a turning-point (though not the end) of the British campaign to invade and “conquer” New France, but whether or not the colony would be annexed was decided at the Treaty of Paris. It was the ancien régime that sold Canada out. And the French language hasn’t been extinguished on the continent: it survives in every part of the continent in which it was spoken in 1759, except for Louisiana — which remained in the hands of France! Who could possibly have foreseen in 1759 that the 50 000 inhabitants of Canada would someday have 6 000 000 descendants and a contemporary culture rivaling France’s own? Especially when that population was built up internally.

            “This is is not something that Quebec wants to celebrate. We can remember the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, we are not trying to forget it, but we don’t want a reenactment of it, especially under the control of the federal government.”

            As I say below in my reply to Philippe’s post, I appreciate that and I respect it. And I think the wrong word is “celebrate.” The word we should all be using is “commemorate.”

            “As long as the reenactment is under the control of the federal government, who are the inheritors of the British victors in the battle, Quebecers would be uneasy with the reenactment because they feel it is a celebration of the French defeat.”

            I honestly don’t see how the Canadian government of today is the inheritor of the British victors in the battle. I don’t even see how it’s the inheritor of the British government of 1763. Canada is an independent country that cut its ties to Britain in 1931, 78 years ago, when my grandmother was 6 years old. The federal government doesn’t dominate Quebec; on the contrary, people like me have spent the last three months defending the democratic legitimacy of the BQ! If Quebec wants to get rid of the federal government, it can do so by separating at the behest of its own voters; meanwhile the federal government is partly owned by Quebeckers.

            Nonetheless, I can see how the NBC is viewed with suspicion and I certainly agree that the reenactment was a terrible idea.

            Thanks for the opportunity to exchange views.

          • Sophie —

            “As to your poem-
            I feel the need, now, to apologize to my professor of Anglo-Saxon Literature (in my defense, I ran out of first-year French, Canadian, and South African lit courses (I like books) and wasn’t feeling brave or masochistic enough for Poetry of the African Diaspora, Russian, Hungarian or Indian) because now I actually have seen Caesuras and alliteration in real life. … I’m still waiting to see a kenning.”

            LOL, kennings are hard to make, I find. Lessee, you basically take one aspect of something and make a metaphor out of it, right? So blog comments are generally written late at night when people are thinking about politics or during the day when they’re bored at work. For the first, what about “moon-ruling”? For the second, what about “clock-tickler”? In the first case, it’s the kind of ruling (= governing = politicking) you do when the moon is in the sky; in the second the idea would be that by commenting on a blog one helps the clock go round, as though adjusting it with one’s finger. I hereby donate these to the communal word-hoard.

          • Wait, I just realised that “clock-tickler” has some accidental associations that would make later scholars blush, and we don’t want that. Man, these kennings are perilous. What about “brain-hanky” for afternoon blog comments? Or is that stretching it a bit? Too metaphorical? As I say, they’re hard . . . somehow the authentic, barbarian ones are all so beautiful; I guess that’s why they kept them. Probably there were legions of apprentice bards hanging around Iceland in AD 900 trying to think up new ones.

    • Oh, Jack. And here I thought I couldn’t love you any more than I already did. My esteem for you is now boundless, endless, completely and utterly without borders. Somebody else actually gets it! That I lived to see this day!

        • No unfortunetly and though I give you much credit for trying and caring, I don’t think you quite get it.

          First, we must make it very clear that the blame here is on the Federal Governement. It must also be clear that in the vast majority of Quebec’s mind, the Fed and the ROC are two very distinct things. That dichotomy was sure helped by the fact that Ottawa was controlled by Quebecois federalists for so long, not the ROC. We see the ROC as just this other people over there who we kindly ignore and who serves it right back at us, except for the occasionnal love-in ;) .

          I don’t think the people of Manitoba have anything to do with this, nor do they care the slighest.

          First, what pissed off so many of us was not the re-enactment itself so much as the revisionism of history from Ottawa. That handshake WAS incredibly offensive. If you want to commemorate, at least do it the way it really was. Those man shot each other to death, quite literally. It’s very much like when Ottawa tried to sell Quebec’s 400th this summer as the foundation of Canada, it’s scarily delusionnal.

          Parenthesis – about that whole Wolfe as a war criminal thing, i want to remind people that many on the french side were fighting Indian style… hidden behind trees rather then lined up on a field in front of the enemy while wearing bright color and waiting for someone to hit a drum to shoot. This tactic seems like a no-brainer these days but was considered a war crime back then. / end of parenthesis

          Now, about the re-enactment itself. It’s not that we are ashamed or humiliated about that day, at all. Armies loose battle and then shit happens. It’s just that that particular battle marked the beggining of a 200 year long domination period, like it or not. Sure the sixties are far away and you’d have to look pretty hard to find any sign of actual “domination” nowadays. But less then 60 years ago, you could very well be told to “Speak White” if you were trying to get a job downtown. Sure it’s over, but it’s not THAT far away.

          Celebrating (or whatever they’re calling it) the Abraham Heights battle truly feels like a reminder of those 200 years of domination and the event that started it, sponsored and organized by Ottawa, the very symbol of that domination. We’re not ashamed of the domination itself, au contraire, I think most of us are pretty proud with the way we resisted assimilation through all those years. But it’s a whole other thing to have the descendant of the conquerer go on and say: ” Hey, remember when we kicked your ass and then tried relentlessly to assmiliate you for 200 years? Let’s play it over and have a picnic while we’re at it. Yeah cause what actually happened is that you guys were glad to join Canada, hence the handshake… anyway you would have been dumb not to. Just look at how awesome we are today!! ”

          No it’s not the end of the world. But we’d just prefer if there was no reenactment at all.

          • Thanks for the lengthy reply, Philippe, it’s really helpful. Not living in Quebec at the moment, and thus not reading its newspapers or watching its TV, I’m getting all my info on the thing from the Internet; which is certainly a boon per se but doesn’t give you much of a sense of the feeling on the ground.

            I hadn’t quite grasped, for instance, how much of the controversy is directed at the NBC itself, as a Federal agency; and I actually hadn’t heard much about the details, e.g. the handshake. I’m certainly against propaganda, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the “happy ending” idea was someone’s tone-deaf attempt to avoid pro-Wolfe triumphalism.

            It’s certainly not for me to tell Quebeckers how to interpret their history. But I would say that there are not many political or military events in Quebec’s post-Conquest history that are not related to the struggle against assimilation. To me the wrong word for anyone to use, about history in general, is “celebration.” Celebration is something you do on your 8th birthday; commemoration is what you do when you’re thinking respectfully but humbly about the past. I just wish Quebec would remember its glorious history without implying that nothing’s changed since, oh, 1837. You rightly point out that as late as the 1950’s (or later!) Montreal had an unspoken apartheid going, but neither you nor I were even born then! Are young people today in Quebec — born in 1990, say — supposed to grow up identifying with the Quebec of 1950? I certainly don’t identify with the Canada of 1950 — or 1850 or 1750 — even though I am determined to respect the historical legacy, good and bad.

            Which is to say, something like the anniversary of 1759 would be an ideal time to officially declare the past to be the past. Without papering over the truth, or its consequences, or pretending the Plains of Abraham was a happy event. I’m not sure I’d have been in favour of a reenactment to begin with, and I certainly am not in favour now. But Quebec must do something to mark the 250th anniversary of the biggest battle fought in North America before 1860, one that shaped its own destiny. The past has great power and must be appeased if it is not to oppress us. That’s not one anglophone view on something that isn’t his business; it’s a student of history’s view on the nature of human experience.

  14. If I were Quebec’s mother, I would make him/her takea a seat at the front row when watching the performance (yes, in my ‘household’ the performance would have been as scheduled). And after the performance I would say: ” Now, darling Quebec, you can get up and join your friends.”

  15. I say we re-enact “The Battle To Re-Enact the Plains of Abraham” every five years or so.

  16. I’m just sad, because I actually enjoy historical re-enactments.

  17. 570News is covering this topic on the Jeff Allen show this morning. I’m at work and can’t listen to it. It is sure to be full of the most ignorant commentary, and this is a plea to Jack to get on there and say something intelligent.

    Not that I agree completely with what you have to say. But did I mention I’m at work?

    • Thanks for the info Jenn, though I think I missed the show. Perils of the sub-thread. I may well end up thrusting myself to the middle of the debate though, later on this year, if I can figure out a way to do it without doing more harm than good.

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