Plains of Abraham re-enactment may be cancelled
Published Saturday, February 14, 2009 5:57PM EST
MONTREAL - The controversial re-enactment of the 1759 defeat of French forces on Quebec City's Plains of Abraham has been cancelled, Montreal media reports say.
Andre Juneau, head of the National Battlefields Commission that administers the Plains, refused to confirm the reports the mock battle was called off but said a revised program will be announced next Tuesday for the 250th anniversary of the clash.
Juneau cited concerns about violence between separatists and federalists and the subsequent safety of the public as reasons for the program's revision.
But Horst Dresler, president of the Quebec Historical Corps, who started organizing the simulated battle 11 years ago, said he'll continue to push forward with the re-enactment one way or another.
"It's a rumour," he said.
"Officially the event is still on, so I'm going forward until Tuesday when the official announcement comes out."
The history buffs have also been actively looking for areas outside Quebec City to recreate the conflict, should the Plains of Abraham location fall through, he said.
Planned for August, the re-enactment struck a raw nerve with Quebec sovereigntists, who denounced it as an insulting reminder of their ancestors' defeat 250 years ago.
They threatened to protest the event, political commentators criticized it and even Premier Jean Charest thretaened to stay away.
On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused sovereigntists and the Bloc Quebecois of generating political tension over the re-enactment. Two nationalist groups had planned demonstrations on Parliament Hill on Feb. 22.
Dresler said it's all been an unfortunate misunderstanding.
"Our only goal in this is to continue the 250th commemoration of the French and Indian War, " he said, referring to the North American chapter of the Seven Years War among the major European powers of the period.
"It's just another historical event. Unfortunately, nobody bothered asking us what this is all about."
"For us, it is to bring history to the public. That's our mission."
"It's to teach, it's to educate."
Francois Gendron, spokesman for Jeunes Patriotes du Quebec, a Montreal-based sovereigntist group, said they would make an appearance at the Plains, regardless of whether the re-enactment was axed from the program.
"We can't forget that something did happen there 250 years ago," he said.
"But we'll probably hold a candlelight vigil in the honour of all those who lost their lives, even the English or Native Americans."
Charest also weighed in on the dispute.
"It's not an event that interests me but we need to avoid going overboard," he told the media Saturday.
"Calls to violence, inciting violence, those don't reflect Quebec values. We should be able to have these discussions without falling into those traps."
Other programmed activities, like guided tours of historical military camps, archeological digs and art exhibits will likely still be held. A planned masked ball that would recreate a party held by New France residents in an act of defiance against British troops may also be dropped from the calendar of events.
Roughly 2,000 volunteer re-enactors from the world over were expected to recreate the military clash between French and British troops.
Dresler, who noted a number of other mock battles have been held on the Plains without argument, said he's never seen a re-enactment generate such a fuss.
"This is rather unique, to say the least."