Canada has its own cultural conflicts

1759-2009 - point de vue anglo-saxon

Cultural conflicts within the United States are a daily occurrence, something we read about in the paper every day. But to the north of us, in what we consider a very stable and laid-back country, they have their own cultural problems.
There are two sides to Canada -- the British and the French. However, the French lost control of their settlements when they lost the 1759 Plains of Abraham battle in Quebec, 250 years ago.
Great Britain gained control of the country. Many French-Canadians migrated to become part of the French-American community. Many remained in the country, mostly in Quebec.
For the past 250 years they have fought to maintain their cultural identity. French is one of the official languages of the country, and laws have been passed to preserve the culture.
But for some Canadians, this has not been enough. There is a separatist movement in the country calling for Quebec statehood. Though Quebec is predominately French, the rest of the country is mostly British, and they control the political process.
Several agreements have been reached over the years, and most Canadians have accepted a policy of peaceful coexistence -- that is, until the National Battlefields Commission decided to re-enact the battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. Yes, the one where British forces defeated the French.
That would be similar to the U.S. re-enacting the burning of Atlanta in Georgia.
Quebec separatists consider it an affront to remind them of their ancestors' defeat, so the re-enactment has been canceled.
The principle of independence rises in us all. If we live our lives in peace, then we should be free to live it, legally, however we choose, including maintaining our cultural heritage. This is the desire of the French-Canadian community. Let Quebec be Quebec.
An interesting twist to the story came from the Huron-Wendat First Nation tribe. It is a tribe completely surrounded by Quebec City but not part of it. The grand chief of the tribe, Konrad Sioui, proposed a treaty of friendship among all Canadians. He suggested a peace ceremony to replace the re-enactment that would involve burying hatchets and planting a white pine tree of peace over them. Then everyone would smoke the peace pipe, much as our Calumet ancestors did years ago.
His offer has yet to be accepted, but Canadian officials are considering it. The grand chief believes his idea, coming from someone who is neutral, just might help.
I learned all this from a friend in Canada who sent me the headlines. Evidently, we Americans are so self-absorbed with our own problems that the story missed most American papers. Since our president recently visited there and Canada has aligned its defense with ours, perhaps we should pay more attention to what's going on north of the border and stop spending our time thinking about ourselves.
And to my French-Canadian friend, I say: "Que la paix soit avec vous." (May peace be with you.)
Michael Goodson's column appears every other Thursday. He lives in Highland. Contact him at

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