May 18, 2015

English Edition, No. 11


National Patriots' Day

Long Live the Nation-Building Project
of Today's Patriots!



National Patriots' Day

Long Live the Nation-Building Project of Today's Patriots!
- Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ), May 18, 2015

The Key Role Played by Patriot Women
CALENDAR OF EVENTS


National Patriots' Day

Long Live the Nation-Building Project
of Today's Patriots!

Today, May 18, National Patriots' Day, marches, historic exhibits, conferences and performances are taking place to mark the 1837-1838 uprising and to honour the memory of the Patriots who gave their lives or were forced into exile in the struggle to end British colonial rule by establishing a Republic of Quebec.

On this occasion, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) salutes all those who espouse the cause of the Quebec Patriots, especially those who are determined to elaborate a nation-building project consistent with the demands of the times. PMLQ notes that the struggle of the people of Quebec and of the rest of Canada to provide themselves with a new direction and the renewal of the nation-state so as to vest sovereignty in the people is more important than ever.

Patriots' Day celebrates the striving of the people to affirm their right to be. Beginning in the spring of 1837, when the British Crown formally rejected the demands of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada included in the 92 Resolutions of 1834, numerous mass meetings broke out across Quebec where the people spoke and demanded their democratic rights.

In the midst of this affirmation of the people's will, the Patriots proclaimed "by order of the provisional government" an important manifesto, the "Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Lower Canada." In it they declared the principles and democratic rights of the Republic. Section 3 of the declaration calls for the defence of the rights of all: "Under the free government of Lower Canada, all individuals will enjoy the same rights: the natives will no longer be submitted to any civil disqualification and will enjoy the same rights as all other citizens of Lower Canada." Section 15 proclaims that the people will author their own constitution: "At the earliest occasion the people must choose delegates according to the present division of the country in counties, cities and boroughs who will form a convention or legislative body to draft a constitution according to the needs of the country, in accordance with the provisions of this Declaration, subject to modification according to the will of the people."

The 1837-38 uprising was crushed through brutal force, including the suspension of habeas corpus, mass arrests, the burning of homes, the hanging of 12 patriots and forcing of 64 others into exile. More than 1,700 were imprisoned following the suspension of habeas corpus. In Montreal alone in 1838, 816 people were arrested out of a population of 30,000, which translates into 40,000 people out of Montreal's present-day population. Of that number, 108 were court-martialled. Hundreds were forced to flee to the U.S. to escape arrest, including 10 persons accused of "murder"who faced the death penalty if they ever returned. It marked the suppression of a modern Quebec nation-state whose existence has been denied ever since by depriving the Quebec people, irrespective of their national origin, language or creed, of their right to self-determination as an independent legal entity with the right to form a free and equal union with the rest of Canada if they so decide of their own free will.

The 1837-38 Patriots' Uprising is an important event in the history of Quebec and Canada, the significance of which must be grasped in order to understand the present-day situation and not be misled by illusions that so-called democratic institutions are the finality of those institutions the people require to express their decision-making power -- in other words, their sovereignty. On the contrary, the establishment of a modern Quebec state on its own basis remains necessary to settle the crisis of the democratic institutions in a manner that favours the people by ending the stranglehold of the institutions established out of the suppression of the nation-building project the Patriots put forward in 1837-1838. The so-called democratic institutions were based on "reasonable accommodations," the arrangements the British oligarchs found "reasonable" to strengthen British colonial rule after the English defeated the French at the Plains of Abraham in 1759 and Quebec passed from being a French colony to an English colony. The British power divided the people on an ethnocultural basis and enshrined this division in the Act of Union of 1840. Ever since then, the line of divide and rule has served first the British and then the Canadian state to impose the dictate of the ruling elites on both the Quebec and the Canadian peoples as well as the First Nations. It is clear that after the rebellion of 1837-1838, all those patriots who refused to conciliate with these so-called reasonable accommodations were either hanged or exiled and with this infamous act, the present democratic institutions of so-called responsible government came into being to keep the people out of the power-sharing arrangements.

The present situation shows that the cause for which the Patriots fought in 1837-1838 today takes the form of the need for the working class to constitute itself the nation and vest sovereignty in the people to make them the decision-makers in all political, economic, social and cultural affairs that concern them and their nation. This need is all the more urgent as the governments of Quebec and Canada intensify the sell-out of the natural and human resources and establish new arrangements to facilitate the political, economic and military annexation of Canada and Quebec to the United States of North American Monopolies and restructure the state in the service of the most powerful monopolies as part of U.S. empire-building. The more they refuse to share power with anyone, the more they talk of "reasonable accommodations."

As a result of this nation-wrecking agenda, the ruling elites have mired Quebec and Canada in an unprecedented constitutional and political crisis. Their refusal to open society's path to progress is seen in increasing attempts to push the politics of division based on language, national origin, culture, belief, colour of skin, or any other consideration. The people are witnessing the daily spectacle of political factions challenging each other as to who will best represent Quebec values, or reducing the identity of the Quebec people to a linguistic issue, or dividing the people on an ethnocultural basis so as to get away with imposing a new "reasonable accommodation" to suppress their right to be and determine for themselves the kind of arrangements they require to flourish.

Once again, honour to the patriots who fought and gave their lives for the cause of the progress of the society. Today's patriots perpetuate their memory by advancing that cause within the present conditions.

Let the Working Class Constitute Itself the Nation and Vest Sovereignty in the People!
Sovereignty Yes! Annexation No!

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The Key Role Played by Patriot Women

In 1837-38, the mobilization and organization of the people of Lower Canada in combating British colonialism and affirming the Republic of Lower Canada reached a milestone. Women of that epoch were an integral part of the Patriot movement through their ingenuity and sacrifices for the success of the republican cause. In 1837, within the framework of the effort to create an economy proper to the young republic and end its economic subjugation to Great Britain, women began to weave clothes from the country's own yarn. During assemblies young women pledge to save their hearts for those who dared to clothe themselves in Canadian cloth. At mealtime, maple syrup replaces sugar from the West Indies and cider is served instead of wine. Based on historian Micheline Lachance, over 250 women from the Parish of Saint-Antoine organized a sumptuous dinner where all imported products were formally banned.

On August 13, 1837, the Central and Permanent Committee of the Patriots received a petition from Marie-Louise Félix (wife of Patriot notary Jean-Joseph Girouard) requesting the creation of the Association of Patriotic Women of the County of Two Mountains. During the same period at patriot assemblies the banner "Honour to Patriot Women" was raied.

Marie-Louise and her sister Marie-Victoire (wife of merchant Jean-Baptiste Dumouchel) settled in Saint-Benoît and both were active in the Patriot cause, as were their three children Vital-Léandre, Camille and Hercule.  Besides having participated in the founding of the Association of Patriotic Women, Marie-Victoire was also known for having made the Patriot Flag of Two Mountains, representing a golden muskellunge enveloped in a pine branch with the letters C for Canada and J-Bte, for Jean-Baptiste, the symbol of the habitants of Lower Canada during that period. That same flag was raised during the Battle of Saint-Eustache.

To crush the rebels and the aspirations of the people of Lower Canada of ridding themselves from the yoke of the British Empire, the British army put fire and sword to the country and women and families connected in any way to the Patriot movement were made to suffer the worst humiliations. At that time, most were alone in raising their children and caring for the elderly. They very courageously faced the violence of the British military. Émilie Boileau, living in Chambly, organized Patriot assemblies from her home. She was armed at all times and Patriot Robert-Shore-Milnes Bouchette wrote in his memoirs that, "We had hardly entered the room when we saw people at the back of the room respectfully make room to allow a woman to pass, who came towards us in a calm and dignified manner. In her right hand she held a gun, its barrel resting on her left arm." [1] Others, such as the young Labrie and Berthelot women, melted lead to make bullets and made powder ammunition rounds. They were never far from the battlefield, ready to care for the wounded.

Women did not hesitate to offer refuge to patriots on the run, even at the risk of their lives. In a letter dated March 9, 1838 intended for his wife, notary Girouard related, "If you see Mrs. Mongrain, do not forget to express to her my deep gratitude for her concern when I was kept by the brave patriot women in the cellar of the de Payen house ... What a spectacle it was! It is always in my thoughts. If ever I return to St-Benoît, and have the means to do so, I will assemble all those generous women amongst us that promises, money, fear failed in having them betray any of their compatriots. I would like an opportunity to thank them, to express to them my recognition and admiration for their patriotism." [2]

When their homes were pillaged or burned, the women had only to rely on themselves and the solidarity of their compatriots to survive. They were forced to take to the road with their families over long kilometers in search of shelter. Some, such as the sister of Doctor Chénier, crossed village after village to inquire about and give news of the patriots on the battlefield.

While the British power had only prison, exile and death in response to the will to establish a Republic of Lower Canada, women did not submit to humiliation and fear and continued to defend the Patriot movement. They visited and provided care to prisoners, interceded with the authorities in defense of the just cause of their spouse, brother, son and demanded their release. Euphrosine Lamontagne-Perrault lost two sons in the Rebellion, one killed, the other in exile. She exemplified the spirit of the women at the time: "if it was to do all over again and my children wanted to act as they had, I would not try to stop them as in no way were they driven by ambition, but by love of their country and hate against the injustices they were made to suffer."

Sources:  La Canadienne pendant les troubles de 1837-1838, Marcelle Reeves-Morache, Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française
www.1837.qc.ca
www.unites.uqam.ca

Notes

1. Mémoires de Robert-S.-M. Bouchette (1804-1840), collected by his son Errol Bouchette, with notes by A.-D. Decelles.

2. Jean-Joseph Girouard (1795-1855) “Lettre addressée à son épouse Marie Louise Félix (1780-1846) from the Montreal prison March 9, 1838”, http://www.unites.uqam.ca/expo/Fr/3.4.discours.html



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