Little Fish in a Giant pond

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Does anybody know when my anniversary is?

Well folks, the hockey season is over (damn wings!) and I have somehow survived the process of writing my bar exams, so it looks like I'm going to have a little more blogging time on my hands for the next little while, or at least until articling begins, so it's back to politics as usual!
Not long ago, a good friend of mine blogged about the intellectual tug of war that is currently going on over Québec's 400th anniversary. Basically, a lot of people seem to be offended that the federal government is attaching national importance to the foundation of Québec by Samuel de Champlain some four centuries ago. Of particular importance seemed to be the fact that a federal government web page actually refered to the historic event as the founding of the Canadian state.
Personally, I can't really say that I object to this, except of course for the use of the word "state". As a historian, I have to say that this is a pretty flagrant inaccuracy, since the Canadian confederation was not formed until 1867. As strange as it may sound, I think the word "nation" would have worked far better here, since it is a historical fact that the first inhabitants of Canada to ever call themselves Canadians were the descendants of European settlers who came from France. I guess that word just generates far too much controversy now that Parliament has recognized the existence of a Québecois nation within a united Canada.
Frankly it's a big deal over one little word and hardly worth getting all worked up over, but it's not so much the web page itself that has peaked my interest here as the conflict that it has started. It kind of makes me wonder exactly what the Québec nationalists are fighting for here. Do they seriously want Canadians from other provinces to butt out of the festivities? Do they expect us all to just say that this event had absolutely no consequence for us? Whether they like it or not, Québec is very much a part of Canada, and the founding of Québec city represents an important event for us all.
Probably the most inescapable conclusion that one is confronted with when studying Canadian history is that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint one defining moment in which the Canadian nation was born. Apart from the founding of Québec/New France, there is absolutely a myriad of events that could be construed as the founding of Canada, such as the battle of Queenston Heights, the rebellions, the adoption of responsible government, Confederation, the battle of Vimy Ridge, the 1931 statute of Westminster, the adoption of the 1982 Constitution Act, etc.
I imagine it must be a very bitter pill for any Francophone in Canada to swallow, but even the British victory on the plains of Abraham in 1759 was a major step in Canadian political and national development, because without it, the "two solitudes" may never have met. Interestingly enough, next year will mark the 250th anniversary of this battle. Obviously, it would be in bad taste to start organizing a large scale celebration to mark the event, since there is no need to rub it in anyone's face, but the point I'm trying to make here is that historical events, like historic figures become symbols after a while that take on a life of their own and sometimes people attach too much importance to them.
The 400th anniversary of the founding of Québec is a great reason to party, but it's hardly worth fighting over.

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