PM promotes links with France ahead of anniversary
Published Wednesday, July 2, 2008 10:18PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the shared values of Canada and France Wednesday, on the eve of celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Quebec City.
The occasion is "an opportunity to underscore the historic links and common values between France and Canada," Harper told reporters in Ottawa. "These include our shared commitment to promoting human rights, good governance and democracy, and of course the French language."
Harper was joined by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who said the anniversary is the "talk of the town" in France.
Two leaders also said they discussed their countries' military commitments in Afghanistan and a potential free-trade deal between Canada and the European Union.
Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec City on July 3, 1608. It became the first permanent European settlement in North America, and now stands as the only remaining wall-fortified city north of Mexico.
The official celebrations will be competing with Quebec nationalist festivities, and a parade protesting Canada's military operations in Afghanistan. The demonstration will be carefully watched by Quebec City police and RCMP.
Entertainers like Diane Dufresne and Ariane Moffat will sing tributes to historical events in the city, and Sir Paul McCartney and Celine Dion are both set to give concerts later this month.
The name of Quebec City comes from the Iroquois word kebec, which means: "Where the river narrows."
Another French explorer, Jacques Cartier, had earlier visited the same site in 1535 and tried to settle there in 1541, but the region's harsh winters and skirmishes with First Nations people forced him to leave.
Champlain used the settlement as a base of operations to expand the fur trade, and a starting point for more explorations. In 1759, Quebec City was captured by the British as the Seven Years' War raged on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
British troops overcame the French at the Plains of Abraham and France handed over its colony. On Thursday, Britain will be represented at the celebrations by High Commissioner Anthony Joyce Cary.
Other dignitaries expected to attend include U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins and a cabinet minister from Ireland -- a country whose citizens helped settle the city.