13

Quebec and modern memory: a brief sequel


 

I will translate larger portions of André Pratte’s editorial when I get a minute, but here it is if you want to chew on it yourself. All I can say is that since I wrote this long post yesterday, the usual suspects at Le Devoir are continuing to chew the guedille over the Charest-Harper-Michaëlle Jean “rewriting” of history. Pratte’s editorial in La Presse will be distinctly embarrassing. He opens with a quote from….Champlain:

“Your Majesty must have enough knowledge of the discoveries made in his honour of New France (called Canada) through the writings that certain Captains and Pilots have made.”

That’s from 1613. Hmm.

Pratte continues with historian Marcel Trudel: “At the starting point of the continuous history of Canada we find Champlain. He is voluntarily and by principle at the origin of this story and it is in this sense that Champlain can claim the role of Canada’s founder.”

The continued contortions of the Le Devoir editorialists and columnists are so embarrassing that I should note that even the Bloc Québécois has already decided it is no longer worth emulating them. But my colleagues at Le Devoir are tenacious, and we should expect Saturday’s paper to be absolutely spectacular in its absurdity.


 

Quebec and modern memory: a brief sequel

  1. That Champlain called New France Canada is pretty irrelevant. The colony was called Canada from day one. What it was called then and the fact that the British continued to use that name afterwards is really only about semantics. When Pratte and Harper say “Canada” today, it isn’t the same “Canada” that Champlain wrote about in 1613.

    And that in the same way that “Canadien” meant something completely different in 1808 than it does today in 2008. You’re a Canadian, Mr. Wells, but 200 years ago you wouldn’t have called yourself a Canadian. Only the descendants of the French colonists took that name, a name that was disparaged and insulted by the British and the ancestors of current English Canadians.

    Pratte is the last person you should be taken instruction from in terms of Quebecois history. He just wants to be loved by people west of the Ottawa River.

  2. That Champlain called the land he visited Canada is relevant to me. The 400th anniversary of the foundation of Quebec City is relevant to me, as will be the 400th anniversary in 2010 of the arrival of Étienne Brûlé in my region of Ontario and in 2015 of the passage of Champlain in Simcoe. It is relevant to those who speak French in this country, and this includes the million of us who don’t live in Quebec. It has always been and will continue to be relevant to those who write in French in this country, to Gilles Dubois, Antonine Maillet, Herménégilde Chiasson, Gabrielle Roy.

    It means something to me to say that I am a Canadienne. Some Québécois now refuse to write the word, preferring to use the English ‘Canadian’ in French texts. These Québécois writers insult and disparage the descendants of the French who live in other provinces with their association of the term Canadien-français to servitude, lack of courage and intelligence. You are a Canadian, Mr. Wells, and I am a Canadienne.

  3. It is relevant to a lot of us.

    A Texan or Californian or South Dakotoan would never consider that the arrival of Columbus or Plymouth Rock was irrelevant to their history. The Norman conquerers were a fundamental party of the history of Britain too.

    Champlain was the founding father of Canada. French and English Canada. His history is inextractible from the history of the whole nation.

  4. You misunderstand. That he used the term “Canada” doesn’t mean he was establishing the “Canada” we live in today. Of course the fouding of Quebec is important. But it isn’t the founding of the Canada of today, it was the founding of the French presence in North America. That presence was halted and changed forever with the coming of the British.

    You can think what you like, Ted and Loraine, but having other people take the history of my nation and my people for their own is incredibly insulting.

  5. It’s true. When he landed, Champlain said, “I’m landing this boat for Éric Grenier. Hands off, everyone else.” You could look it up.

  6. Why is it that these discussions always end up with some Quebec nationalist complaining of being rebuffed, or insulted, or demeaned or whatever? I am beginning to think they should check out the Human Rights Commission to see if a complaint might be in order. Surely the kind of abuse they are suffering amounts to some kind of offense against human dignity?

  7. The idea that anybody “owns” history is profoundly insulting to our common humanity.

  8. My Lamontagne ancestor arrived with le Régiment de Carignan and his descendants have lived in Canada ever since and, like me and my children, continue to speak French. Yet, for Éric Grenier, and others, I am of a different people, of a different nation because I live in Ontario. I find this insulting. Éric Grenier cannot rewrite the history of my family.

  9. When you or your family moved out of Quebec, that was a choice you made. You and I have the same roots, but we are not of the same nation anymore. French Canadians are like a Quebec diaspora, with roots in the ‘old country’ but who have adopted their new country. Like how the Irish community of Boston is more American than it is Irish.

    You are a French Canadian like they are an Irish American. Enjoy your slow cultural death into a mere regional peculiarity with fancy parades.

    95% of francophones outside of Quebec speak English, while 14% of anglophones outside of Quebec speak French, according to Statistics Canada. That says it all.

  10. A “slow cultural death” which consists in forgetting French and embracing English? Strange death that leaves you living a richer life when you’re done.

    But that’s not what I came here to say. I would have thought that experience in this country would have taught us a couple of things. One is that money spent buying the loyalty of Quebeckers is money wasted. By which I mean, that even if you really need the loyalty of Quebeckers and you’d benefit greatly from having it, and even if you pay for it generously, you’re not going to get it that way.

    And another would be that money spent peddling false history is money mis-spent. By which I mean that, even if that money very effectively convinces a whole lot of people of your false view of history, you’re not going to get any benefit out of the achievement, only harm.

    With those principles in mind, I can see some pretty good grounds for criticizing the Harper government’s handling of the Quebec anniversary. And I note these criticisms aren’t coming merely from the losers of the Quebec sovereignty debate, but from Newfoundland and the West. From people who know their history and know that Quebec is irrelevant to it. People, that is, whom Paul Wells will never understand.

    And a closing remark to Mr. Grenier: at any given time, about 15% of Canadians outside Quebec speak French. But two-thirds of those who can speak it today will have forgotten it in ten year’s time. Their numbers will be made up for by another generation who hasn’t yet understood that French isn’t worth knowing. If you wanted to turn that situation around, you could actually make French a language worth knowing; but you’ve never quite managed to do that, have you?

  11. And since I’m on a roll here: this will startle most of you, but Canada isn’t the US. In fact, it isn’t very much like the US, except in the most superficial respects. Asking what the Americans would do in ostensibly similar circumstances is foolish: any similarity in circmstance of such fundamentally different countries is probably an illusion, and the right response for the Americans might well be lunacy for us.

    But that said, and since it’s been mentioned: I suspect that if the U.S. government were to publicize the anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, Fla., by treating it as synonymous with the founding of the USA, it would receive some pretty spirited criticism from a lot of sources, quite possibly including both Texas and South Dakota.

  12. And celebrating the foundation of either Canada or Quebec based on its “discovery” by Europeans, is deeply offensive to some First Nations people who believe someone was already using the place when Champlain got here. How many people in Canada speak Cree? What percentage of non-aboriginal people can speak Cree?

    What about those humiliations? Or is it just colonial history that creates nations?

Sign in to comment.