Friday, 6 November 2015

Québécois, Canadien, Canadian Mind Sets - et al

I admire the Irishman from Eire who set out to visit his friend in Northen Ireland.  Tramping across the fields he came to a sign indicating that he had reached the border, necessitating a detour to the nearest approved crossing point.  No Problem.  He simply uprooted the sign, carrying it to plant on the far side of his friend’s house.  After his visit he carried it back to its original hole.  Borders can be so artificial and temporary.
An inward-looking group in Quebec continues to try to place another border on my Heritage as though it belongs to them alone.       As a Canadian, the igloo, the birch-bark canoe, the Fleur-de-Lis, the Union Jack, the Shamrock and the Maple Leaf are all mine, along with symbols of other immigrants.  It is a rich and proud heritage in a country labelled by the United Nations as the world’s best.  When, in 1965, we let the Union Jack take a back seat to the Maple Leaf flag we left the door open for further disintegration.
   Why do I cherish the French part of my Heritage?  Along with fine people from throughout the Commonwealth, and the World, I have worked with hundreds from Quebec and this includes Bomber Command, POW camps, and the Korean Air Lift.  Today’s educators and media ignore over 200 years of Quebec’s contributions to Canada and to British and Canadian military units. We also forget that only 6,908 men and 1,617 women crossed that ocean from France to New France.  What they accomplished in a harsh land against great odds is a tale worth knowing, teaching, and appreciating.
The first real Canadian from Europe was Samuel de Champlain who saw the potential of America.  In 1603 he proposed a Panama Canal.  In 1607 he united French settlements in Acadia.  His error was to allow the Hurons, Montagnais, and Algonquins in 1609 to con him into canoeing into what he named Lake Champlain.  This was Iroquois land.
To halt the charge of hostile Iroquois, Champlain and his two men, arquebus-armed, fired, killing three Iroquois  chiefs.  Champlain recognized his error in opposing such splendid physical specimens.  Mortal enemies were made who were later to ally with the British.  In 1615 he stood on top of Mount Royal (Montreal) and predicted that a great nation would arise there.  From 1616 to 1635 he made 25 crossings of the Atlantic vainly trying to turn French interests from the Royal Peltry (fur trade) to settlements. Discouraged, he turned his back on France and encouraged intermarriage with the Natives.  This  mix produced the famed coureur de bois, unexcelled in long-distance exploration and trading.  Side-stepping the Iroquois they ranged from Quebec to Hudson Bay to the Rockies to New Orleans.  They opened a continent peacefully while British settlers multiplied east of the Appalachians.  Pierre Esprit Radisson and Medart Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers, promoted the Hudson Bay route, but failed to convince officials in Quebec or Paris.  Charles II in London, however, wined and dined them.  The British affectionately called them Radishes and Gooseberries.  Charles approved the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson Bay, with two ships, the Eaglet and Nonsuch (Winnipeg has a Nonsuch replica).
By the time of the 1759 British conquest the New France population had risen to 65,000, helped by my paternal ancestors. Jacques Chouinard, age 29, married Louise Jean, age 14, in Notre Dame Church, Quebec City, in 1692.  They had 17 children.  Even so, my ancestors from Ireland provided most of my genes.
A harsh land, plus indifference from France, produced a hardy race.  Always outnumbered they held off Iroquois and British attacks for 150 years.  To hide their weakness they often went on the attack with surprising success.  They defeated invasions led by Fitz-John Winthrop and William Phips in 1690.  In 1755 Charles Michel de Langlade, of mixed Ottawa and French blood, led 254 French plus 600 Natives to defeat General Braddock's and LtColonel George Washington's 2,100 men near Fort Duquesne (Pittsburg).
In 1756 France could hurl 100,000 troops against Prussia and Britain, but sent only 1,200 to defend Canada.  Louis XV, however, did send a little-known officer, Louis Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm who was to become the ablest general to set foot in the Americas.  At Ticonderoga his 5,000 men defeated James Abercromby's 20,000 troops.  In the 1759 siege of Quebec, Montcalm was betrayed by his own Governor who, to harvest his own crops, took the men that Montcalm had posted to watch for any Britons trying to scale the cliffs.  The British then scaled undetected.  Montcalm and the British General Wolfe were both killed in the ensuing battle that won Canada for Britain.  When the British colonists refused to pay a share of the costs of eliminating the Canadiens as a hazard to their expansion, Britain had to cut in half the pay of the victorious troops.  A great start for a new nation came when French women made long wool leggings for the bare knees of the Fraser Highlanders who volunteered to help with the harvest.  Many of the victors chose to take land grants in lieu of pay, remain in Canada, and marry French women.  General James Murray and Sir Guy Carleton, the first two British governors, protected the Canadiens from the influx of British merchants from the southern colonies.  The Proclamation of 1763 that forbade British settlement west of the Appalachians and the Québec Act of 1774 that left Québec with its own language, culture, and lands including the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, outraged British colonists, especially George Washington who had financial interests in land that would still be Québec's.  Agitators, including Ben Franklin, went to Montreal, trying to persuade Canadiens into joining the revolution.  They were ignored as British generosity, tolerance, and no taxes were much more than they could expect from an independent non-Catholic nation to the south.
After the American Revolution, 100,000  Loyalists fled, many to Canada which became a bicultural country overnight.  Not to be swamped, the Québécois went to The Battle of the Cradle, and families of over 20 became common.  Today, with English-speaking dominance gone and a less dominant Church, the birthrate has fallen to one of the world's lowest to the annoyance of Premier Jacques Parizeau who blamed immigrants and big business for the narrow defeat in the Referendum seeking independence, of 30 October 1995. 
During the unprovoked invasions of Canada in the War of 1812-14, Canadiens helped to save Canada.  In October 1813 Charles de Salaberry, whose grandfather fought with Montcalm against Wolfe, led 460 Canadiens with Native allies to defeat an invading force of 8,000 US in the Battle of Chateauguay, near Montreal.  To prevent needless slaughter by native allies, he paid a bounty for each US soldier captured unharmed.
Québec remained largely agricultural until The Great War when industrialization and urbanization spread  with English-speaking capital and executives, but political control never left the Québécois.  From the Boer War to World War II frictions arose over involvement in foreign wars which hampered Canadian contributions which nevertheless were truly magnificent, including Québec's.  Conscription was a divisive issue.  When German submarines sank ships in the St. Lawrence River, MacKenzie King closed the river to military traffic to quell Québec fears, but then all shipments had to go via Saint John and Halifax.
The Québec cultural revolution started in the 1950s.  The drive to become Maître chez nous was mainly peaceful and successful.  Desire for a separate country grew slowly from under 20% to 60% then sank to well below 50%.  English-speaking Canada tried to become bilingual while Québec became ever more unilingual, thus alienating would-be friends.  To English Canada, Québec is a case of Much wants More.  Québec has had more than its share of prime ministers (9 of 23)  and government jobs.  It received more than it contributed to the federal purse.  Of Canada’s 36 million, Quebec has 6.2 million plus 700,000 elsewhere in Canada.
To shatter Canada makes no sense and would create lowered living standards and world status for resultant entities.  Years of bickering, if not bloodshed, would follow.  Perhaps, in Québec, le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas. Canada is too great a country to envisage fragments joining the U.S. as dispirited  states.  Canada smarts under inferred U.S. indifference; Québec smarts under inferred Rest-of-Canada indifference; Newfoundland resents Québec indifference.  The Cree and Inuit have no desire to remain in an independent Québec.  Mexico complains of the U.S. “Colossus of the North” whereas Guatemala thinks the same of Mexico, and Honduras and El Salvador consider Guatemala  the Colossus.
A current gripe of those who speak only English is the rule that higher ranks in the civil service and military are reserved only for those fully bilingual.  Ever-changing English is a difficult language yet others are better at learning it than English speakers are at learning another language so many otherwise highly qualified people are by-passed. For instance 3 of the last 4 top RCAF generals here at NORAD are from Québec.
Canada has made great strides in correcting injustices, real and inferred, but sacrifices need to be shared and individual aspirations modified for the common good.  The United States commands patriotism from all its quarrelsome states.  Canada, while cherishing its mosaic approach, could adopt some of this.  The Canadian military has been beneficial in promoting integration, but is now too small to do the job alone.
The Québécois are not ethnically pure.  Many thousands of Native, British, Irish, and German genes have melted into the French "Habitant" culture, not to mention recent immigrants.  Of the 4,884 troops who took Canada in 1759, 33% were British colonists, 25% Irish, 23% English, 15% Scots, 4% German/Swiss and many of these men stayed to marry local women.    
On the world stage:  No human understands life.  No human religion can offer more than a guide, yet we can enhance contentment with empathy for all living things.  Do accept the enormous challenge of bettering human  mindsets.                

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