Posts Tagged ‘plains of abraham’
There are two schools of thought in Québec when it comes to the historical significance of the British conquest of 1759. The so-called Montréal school of thinkers consider it was a historical, economic and social tragedy that stunted the development of French-canadian culture and society. According to the Québec school of thought it spared Québec from the chaos and violence of the French Revolution and gave it access to British government and democracy.
I’m more partial to the second school’s interpretation. The conquest did result in two centuries of rule by a lunatic papist theocracy propped up by a cotery of racist British robber-barons, but at the end of the day, we’re still here, we’re still speaking French and we can only imagine how much bloodier things would’ve been if New France had been conquered by the Spaniards or the Dutch.
The conquest was a thing. It happened. What are you gonna do about it?
We’ll I know at least one thing I wouldn’t do about it is celebrate it.
Yet, that’s exactly what Québec City is getting ready to do.
The National Battlefields Commission is organizing a full-scale re-enactment of both the battle and the siege of Québec this summer to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the British Conquest of New France.
I get it. The whole thing is historically-minded. There’s going to be conferences by scholars. The website says they are ‘marking’ the anniversary, not having a party. The poster for the event shows two smiling generals shaking hands and the program includes a comedy cabaret with Wolfe and Montcalm impersonators.
Yet you have to be seriously clueless to think that a full-scale re-enactment of the mother of all of Québec’s many historical traumas and unresolved ‘issues’ is going to go down without drama. Come on! It was only a few months ago that some people nearly lost it because Paul McCartney went on the Plains to sing in English!
The Réseau de Résistance des Québécois and filmmaker Pierre Falardeau have already given the organisers an ultimatum: “This is why the Réseau de Résistance du Québécois (RRQ) is as of now on the war path, to be ready to get into action on the 15th of February if the said commission does not back down by then and announce the cancellation of the event.”
I can already imagine the the battalion of Jeunes Patriotes with flags and gaz masks charging the middle aged suburban Americans in tights playing the role of the british troops. Maybe Amir Khadir will attack the Wolfe impersonator with his shoes.
This said, I do think they have a point. The Conquest is a very emotional and significant historical event. In the country with the Occident’s strongest and best organized secessionist movement, you’d think people would take that into consideration.
Compare this to the emotionally charged and masterfully played lead up to Barack Obama’s inauguration. This week we saw the president-elect re-enact the train trip Abraham Lincoln took to Washington on the eve of the Civil War and a massive concert was held in front of the Lincoln monument where Martin Luther King gave the most famous american speech ever. All of this evokes slavery, civil war and segregation, but in the context of the the first black president’s swearing in, America is actually creating a brand new historical moment. A moment of reconciliation.
Over here the Canadian government thinks it can defuse the memory of the Conquest by treating it like the emotional equivalent of the war of the Peloponese and turning it into a vaudeville. This is the opposite of what the Americans are doing. This is trivializing the past. It is disrespecting the many Québécois who still have the memory of the consequences of the Conquest stuck in their throats.
Next year: the re-enactment of the American Indian genocide!