Friday, September 11, 2009

Marking Turning Points in History Wolfe vs. Montcalm

This weekend Quebec City will be marking 250 years since the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The battle turned the French colony over to the British. The British decided not to interfere with the existing system of law, language or culture. That decision has defined Canadian culture until this day and still remains a point of conflict in French/English relations.

One of the events planned for tomorrow was to reenact the battle. In elementary school late 1700s early 1800s was my favourite time period to learn about. I had a teacher who did reenactments. He played a part in reacting a battle in a made for TV movie and took a week off of school to reenact the Battle of Waterloo. He was my teacher when we took a class trip to Quebec City, including visiting the Plains of Abraham. Battle reenactments are a great way to make learning about this time period more fun and interesting.

The plan was cancelled because some Quebecers found it offensive. The official reason was that there was the possibilty of protests becoming violent. Instead the anniversary is going to be marked at the same venue, by reading the FLQ manifesto. The FLQ wanted Quebec independance. They planted bombs, kidnapped and murdered Government officials. Their actions resulted in the 1970 October Crisis. The War Measures Act was implemented suspending civil liberties and giving police powers for mass arrests.

This is becoming a common theme around the world. If a group is capable of violence than governments will bend over backwards to try to accomodate their point of view. Groups that will not be violent do not require the same kind of appeasement. In some cases the victims are criticized or even charged for inciting the violence.

Government officials may feel proud that they have protected the safety of their citizens by avoiding violence. The truth is they have just set the stage for the next battle which will mean a choice between violence or further concessions. It is important to be mindful of viewing the world from different perspectives. If threat of violence determines public policy instead of priniciples and public discourse, all of society loses.

No comments: