A planned re-enactment of the Seven Years War battle between the English and French at the Plains of Abraham in 1759 at Quebec City was canceled. Amid threats of disruptions and even violence by separatist groups such as the Réseau de Résistance du Québécois (The Quebec Resistance Network) lead by Patrick Bourgeois the National Battlefields Commission of Canada decided that it was too much of a security risk to host the event which was to consist mostly of re-enactors from the United States, but also from Quebec and other parts of Canada. Separatists viewed this cancellation of an event they considered to be a humiliating reminder of a military defeat to be a victory and the likes of Bourgeois feel it is a first step towards ridding Quebec City of "all monuments dedicated to the memory of Wolfe [the English commander killed in combat at the battle.]"
The cancellation of this event sets a dangerous precedent. Instead of guaranteeing the over 2,000 re-enactors and their families who were to come to Quebec City increased security at their event (which was to include a solemn memorial for all the soldiers involved in that battle) our government capitulated to a vocal extremist minority. Instead of responding to threats of violence with police investigations and legal sanctions, the government has let threats of and physical assault with a weapon, slide (some threatened to bring paint ball guns to disrupt the event).
It is upsetting to think that anyone in modern Quebec, which prides itself on a distinctness based on its unique history in North America, would seek to ban historical re-enactments and monuments to important figures in Canadian and Quebec history who they found distasteful. The extremists of the separatist movement have shown their true colours with their intimidation tactics and their desire to erase from the pages of history historical facts about the country they live in. They want to erase from history all that they see as a humiliation forgetting that the true humiliation came at the hands of the French and not the English. Even French media in Quebec points out how the British did away with cruel French criminal laws while protecting the settler's rights to their own civil laws, religion and language. Little mention is made, however, of how when the Seven Years War ended the French, defeated by the English, when given the choice, chose to abandon Quebec to the English. In exchange for the costly colony of Quebec, by the 1763 treaty of Paris, the French were entitled to keep their sugar, rum and slave producing colonies in the Caribbean as well as some fishing rights and tiny, rocky islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was the French who chose to abandon Quebec, that perhaps, is a humiliation greater than military defeat. Nobody wants to be a second choice.
This episode is also troubling because of what appears to be a lack of any efforts to compromise, to enter into a dialogue which would allow the re-enactors to bring history to life, and as a spin off, pump millions into Quebec's economy while assuring separatists that this is to be a solemn remembrance of history, not a glorification of English victory. There was no effort to reassure opponents of the re-enactment that they were not the target of some sort of attempt at humiliation and that if they wished, they would be allowed to protest peacefully, without disrupting the re-enactment.
Indeed, this whole episode is a sad day for democracy. Even the Federalist Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest had criticized the re-enactment and indicated that he would have no part of it. Quebec is in trouble when a legally authorized event can be canceled by a group of separatist "hotheads" threatening violence. When is enough, enough?! It is time for strong leadership to say 'no! This is Quebec history, these re-enactors have as much right to freedom of peaceful assembly as protesters have a right to free speech. In our democracy, these values must co-exist and be protected. Threats of violence are unacceptable, illegal, undemocratic and will be punished. We will not sacrifice benefits for the many to the threats of the few.' Sadly, no such leadership seems to exist.
Indeed, separatist extremists have won the day. No doubt they are celebrating with the shop owners, restaurateurs and innkeepers who have lost-out on a potential financial windfall. Instead, Quebec can rejoice in having joined the likes of the Spanish conquistadors who burned 'unchristian' Mayan texts of immense historical value; the Popes who caused massive damage to the 'pagan' Coliseum of Rome by stripping it of its stone and iron to build churches; and the Taliban who destroyed centuries old statues of Buddha, including what was believed to be the worlds largest standing Buddha. Quebec has joined the ranks of those who will bow to threats of violence by those who seek to erase history they find distasteful, and in doing so, driving a deeper wedge between them, and the rest of Canada.
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