Chantier Politique

May 26, 2017

English Edition, No. 13

180th Anniversary of the Rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada

For a Constitution and Modern Institutions Which Vest Sovereignty in the People!

180th Anniversary of the Rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada
For a Constitution and Modern Institutions
Which Vest Sovereignty in the People!

Canada 150
Celebrations at Manoir Papineau Are a Provocation

The Need for Modern Institutions Based on Defending the Rights of All
Definition of Rights in the Act of Union, 1840
- Joseph Montferrand Collective - 

Monuments Honouring the Patriots

180th Anniversary of the Rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada

For a Constitution and Modern Institutions
Which Vest Sovereignty in the People!

May 22, 2017, marked the 180th anniversary of the rebellions of 1837-38 in Lower and Upper Canada. The aim of the rebellions was to create arrangements through which sovereignty would be vested in the people, not the British Crown. Across Quebec, marches, historical exhibits, conferences and performances were organized to mark this historical period and 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.

The project of the Patriots for the republic was brutally quashed and it was on the basis of that repression that responsible government and its so-called democratic institutions were established as a government of accommodation between the interests of the British Empire and the colony's ruling classes, and repression of the people. That government practiced the British policy of divide and rule ("divide et impera"), which continues to be imposed today on all issues. Today that government has become one of nation-wrecking and empire-building, actively involved in U.S. imperialist wars of aggression and regime change for world domination.

The project for which the Patriots fought lives on today in the nation-building project of the workers and people to resolve the profound crisis of outdated, anachronistic democratic institutions of a bygone era that continue to block society's advance.

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) calls on the people, particularly the youth, to examine the content of the struggle of the Patriots and the needs they aspired to fulfill, as well as those of a democracy befitting of the 21st Century that recognizes and guarantees the rights of all. This is all the more necessary as the Anglo-Canadian state, by way of the Trudeau government, marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation by celebrating what it refers to as the "shared values" of Canadians -- in other words accommodation with the values of the ruling elite and its power.

Besides other things, this is being done to cover up the truth about the Canadian state's history of repression and exploitation and to block the changes required for the renewal of the Constitution and democracy. On that topic, we are publishing in this issue the second part of the presentation made by the Joseph Montferrand Collective on May 7th at the Conference on the Future of Quebec entitled The Need for Modern Institutions Based on Defending the Rights of All. To read the first part, click here.

Honour to the Patriots who fought and gave their lives for the cause of society's progress! Today's patriots revive their memory by advancing that cause within the present conditions. The struggle of the peoples of Quebec, the First Nations and Canada to vest sovereignty in themselves is more important than ever.

Let the Working Class Constitute the Nation and Vest Sovereignty in the People!
Sovereignty Yes! Annexation No!
Nation-Building - Yes! Empire-Building - No!

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Canada 150

Celebrations at Manoir Papineau Are a Provocation

It was on May 17, at the Manoir Papineau, in the town of Montebello in the Outaouais region, that the federal government announced the kick-off of the Canada 150 celebrations. We often hear of those who betrayed the revolutionary movement of the Patriotes of 1837-38 and accepted a "reasonable accommodation" with the Crown after the Rebellion was brutally crushed. That "reasonable accommodation" provided them access to government positions and institutions in defence of their own right to private property and even to seigneurial rights they enjoyed under the French regime. They reconciled with power not to defend and pursue the struggle for recognition of the Republic, as is often claimed, but to defend the British monarchy and its institutions which betrayed and continue to usurp the right of the people to be sovereign.

Like Louis-Joseph Papineau, they are characterized by their eternal love for the old French and British institutions and contempt for all those who would question them, and their political descendants have always played a leading role in political arrangements designed to "bring the lost sheep back onto the right path." They typically argue that the organized movements of the people, particularly the youth, do not effect change and are disruptive. They consider the questioning of the institutions as sacrilegious and invite all those who have grievances to forever place their faith in institutions that have failed them time and again.

On February 25, 1838, Robert Nelson wrote to JB Ryan Jr. that "Papineau abandoned us for personal and family reasons concerning the seigniories and his inveterate love for the old French laws. We can do well without him, and better than if we were with him; He is a man good only with words and not at all with action."[1]

The current line of official historians and government (they are one and the same) that all those who fought actually gave birth to the current democratic institutions is laughable. That all were patriots after all ... even the soldiers, since they were paid by the empire and served as cannon fodder. This is all to hide the fact that what was called Canada's "Constitution" resulted only in the creation of institutions where rights are considered as privileges that the executive can give and take away as it pleases.

It was under the Harper regime that museums began to advance the idea that "all" are patriots, as if the cause for which hundreds and thousands of people struggled had no class basis or no progressive or reactionary spirit!

To use the Manoir Papineau in Quebec to celebrate such a rendition within the context of the 150th anniversary of Canada is a true insult to Quebec, that was born out of this struggle for independence.


1. Unofficial translation

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The Need for Modern Institutions Based on Defending the Rights of All

Definition of Rights in the Act of Union, 1840

The response of the British to the democratic aspirations of the peoples of Upper and Lower Canada in 1837-38 -- after the military suppression and the hanging of the Patriots who refused to accommodate themselves to the British institutions -- was to send Lord Durham to study the situation and make recommendations to London. Durham has been made a symbol of the will to assimilate French-speaking people. In effect, his whole report is filled with hateful passages toward the French-speaking habitants of Lower Canada. Moreover, the spirit of the report conveys a profound chauvinism and upsetting contempt for everything that is not British nor in the service of British landed and commercial interests. Beyond this patent racism is a desire to make the young nation a true colony of the British Empire, certainly an English-language one, but especially one whose culture is British, so as to ensure stability for the Empire's financial interests.

Assembly of the six counties on October 23 and 24, 1837, brought together some 6,000 patriots at Saint-Charles, in Lower Canada, in defiance of the proclamation prohibiting public assemblies.

The following passage sheds light on the true motivations of Durham's policy, which was not so much an issue of waging an offensive against a language, as it was a matter of domination and of maintaining the colonial power:

"In these circumstances, I should be indeed surprised if the more reflecting part of the French Canadians entertained at present any hope of continuing to preserve their nationality. Much as they struggle against it, it is obvious that the process of assimilation to English habits is already commencing. The English language is gaining ground, as the language of the rich and of the employers of labour naturally will.... A considerable time must, of course, elapse before the change of a language can spread over a whole people... But, I repeat that the alteration of the character of the Province ought to be immediately entered on, and firmly, though cautiously, followed up; that in any plan, which may be adopted for the future management of Lower Canada, the first object ought to be that of making it an English Province; and that, with this end in view, the ascendancy should never again be placed in any hands but those of an English population. [I]n the state of mind in which I have described the French Canadian population, as not only now being, but as likely for a long while to remain, the trusting them with an entire control over this Province, would be, in fact, only facilitating a rebellion. Lower Canada must be governed now, as it must be hereafter, by an English population: and thus the policy which the necessities of the moment force on us, is in accordance with that suggested by a comprehensive view of the future and permanent improvement of the Province."

It is crystal clear: to assure "the future and permanent improvement of the Province," it is necessary to prevent "trusting them with an entire control over this Province."

It was in this spirit and according to Durham's recommendations that the Act of Union of 1840 was adopted, which handed over part of Quebec's territory to Ontario and part of Ontario's debt to Quebec! It is with Lord Durham and the Act of Union that we find the seeds of the division of the people on an ethnocultural basis.

Evolution of Rights During the 1841-1867 Period

The period 1841-67 is very interesting: it is presented as a period of great victory for democracy in Canada and is indeed a very important period of setting up the so-called democratic institutions. But, at the same time, it is a period of high treason and capitulation. Each lofty deed of establishing what is currently called Canadian democracy is in fact a base deed of national betrayal by the elites of Quebec. This is why we say that the so-called democratic institutions are a form of reasonable accommodation that was instituted on the basis of the negation of Quebec, among other things.

During this period, the idea of the "good subject" was put forward by the accommodated elites. The good subject is one who is on the margin of the conduct of political affairs, one who relies on the monarchy to be guided and accommodated by the so-called democratic institutions of the Empire.

This idea of the good subject was put forward by Papineau during the debate on the recall of the Union in 1849, who claimed that French-Canadians are quiet and loyal to the Crown and that on this basis the Union is a disavowal of the freedoms of francophones. This idea was later taken up by George-Étienne Cartier who, on the one hand, defended the closed-door discussions on the Confederation project and, on the other hand, considered that being "good subjects" meant deferring to the will of parliamentarians. The "French-Canadians" were good subjects according to Cartier since they allowed the British institutions in America to develop.

Among the accommodated elites, the most illustrious representative is undoubtedly Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine. Made a nobleman in 1854 for his service to the Crown, he became one of the greatest capitulators and main promoters of conciliation with the Union. Lafontaine saw it as an opportunity, "a good risk" he would later say.

In an address on August 25, 1840, the day after the union of Upper and Lower Canada, he spoke of it in these terms to the electors of his county:

"It [the Act of Union] is an act of injustice and despotism, which has been imposed on us without our consent; [...] Should it follow that the representatives of Lower Canada should commit themselves in advance and without guarantee to demand the recall of the Union? No, they should not do this."

In the same speech, Lafontaine supported the political institutions of the empire-builders, taking care to emphasize the correctness of Durham's solution. Lafontaine rejected "opposition to excess." He said it was better to compromise and accept playing the game in order to hold on to power; in short, to conciliate and abandon nation-building in exchange for crumbs of influence. Thus, in 1842, Lafontaine agreed to participate in the government and administration of the colony. He declared proudly: "Without our active cooperation, without our participation in power, the government cannot function in such a way as to restore the peace and confidence that are essential to the success of any administration."

In 1849, when he opposed the abrogation of the Union of 1840, he praised the merits of his policy of conciliation and his participation in the colonial power: "But if you and I, Mr. Speaker, had not accepted the part given to us in 1842, in the administration of the affairs of the country, where would our compatriots be today? Where would our language be, which a governor had prohibited through a clause of the Act of Union against the good faith of treaties? Would this language, the language of our fathers, be rehabilitated, as it has just been in the most solemn manner, in the enclosure and in the acts of the Legislature?"

This policy of conciliation with the political institutions, which aim to keep the people away from the sovereign power, weighs heavily on Quebec still today.


The Battle of St. Charles, November 25, 1837 (from painting by Lord Charles Beauclerk)

The 1837-1838 Rebellion is an important event in the history of Quebec and Canada. We must grasp its significance so that we can understand today's situation and not allow ourselves to be diverted by the Establishment forces' blackmail according to which Quebec's sovereignty equals the "destruction of Canada." On the contrary, establishing a modern state in Quebec on its own basis remains a necessity, so that the constitutional crisis can be resolved in favour of the people by breaking the hold on society of the institutions that were established by repressing the nation-building project of 1837-38. These are the democratic institutions based on "reasonable accommodation" -- the arrangements that the British oligarchs considered "reasonable" so as to strengthen the British colonial rule established after France's defeat on the Plains of Abraham in 1759, after which Quebec went from being a French colony to an English colony. British rule divided the people on an ethnocultural basis and enshrined this division in the Act of Union of 1840. Since then, the line of divide-and-rule has served first the British state and now the Canadian state to impose the dictate of the ruling elites on the people of Quebec and the people of Canada. It is clear that after the 1837-38 Rebellion, all the Patriots who refused to conciliate with these so-called reasonable accommodations were either hanged or exiled, and that the current democratic institutions of the so-called responsible government, which came out of the infamous Act of Union, aim to keep the people out of any power-sharing arrangement. The current situation shows that the cause for which the Patriots fought in 1837-38 today expresses itself in the necessity for the working class to constitute the nation and vest sovereignty in the people so that they can take the decisions on political, economic, social and cultural affairs, and the issues of the nation. This is even more urgent at a time when the governments of Quebec and Canada are intensifying the sellout of the natural and human resources, looking for ways to establish new arrangements that facilitate the political, economic and military annexation of Canada and Quebec to the North America of the Monopolies, and restructuring the state to serve the most powerful monopolies within the context of the U.S. empire-building project. The more they refuse to share power, the more they speak of "reasonable accommodation."

The result of this nation-wrecking agenda is that the ruling elites have plunged Quebec and Canada into an unprecedented political and constitutional crisis. The refusal of these elites to open the path to progress for society can be seen in their increasing attempts to impose the policy of sowing divisions over language, national origin, culture, beliefs, skin colour, gender and other considerations. Every day we witness quarrels among factions who compete to find out who is the best representative of "Quebec values," who reduce the identity of the Quebec people to a matter of language, and who divide the polity along ethnocultural lines so that they can impose a new "reasonable accommodation" that continues to deny the people their right to be and their right to decide on the arrangements that they need to flourish.

In view of these attacks on conscience, the workers and people of Quebec have choices. One choice is to continue down the path which the British colonialists started 200 years ago with the conscious and murderous policy of divide-and-rule, perpetuated by today's elites in the name of "unity in diversity." The other choice is to look for the ways to put an end to this situation and to build the fraternal unity of the peoples on the basis of the recognition and defence of the rights of all. Only the working class can successfully resolve this question, by taking up the path of renewal and progress against the subversion and the block to renewal of the institutions that the ruling circles promote.

The inciting of passions on the question of language, ethnocultural differences and values is not aimed at democratic renewal, but is part of the old British strategy of divide-and-rule, which is the basis of the so-called democratic institutions that still deprive the people of their right to govern. Thus, the task of the working class and people of Quebec and Canada is to break all efforts of a so-called social consensus to divide the people on a racist basis. Democratic renewal is the solution to the 200-year-old problem of the subjugation of the Quebec nation by the so-called democratic institutions that deprive the people of their sovereignty.

About Joseph Montferrand

Carving of Joseph Montferrand in Mattawa

The Joseph Montferrand Collective, based in the Outaouais, is named after Joseph Montferrand (1802-1864), a raftsman and logger who worked throughout Lower Canada, particularly in the Ottawa Valley. Known also as Joe Mufferaw, Montferrand is considered a hero by the working people, both for his renowned strength and courage and, especially, for opposing the brutal treatment meted out to the Quebec workers by their British employers. Jos Montferrand's exploits took place for the most part in the years preceding the Rebellions of 1837-1838. He first came to fame in 1818 at 16 years of age, when he stood 6' 4" and weighed 240 lbs. At that time, the British military organized boxing tournaments around the world on their gunboats, declaring the winner "World Boxing Champion." In Canada, stationed in the Montreal Harbour, the British marines would taunt and humiliate the crowds of Canadians, ridiculing them that they were too inept to face their "World Champion." That year, young Jos Montferrand took up the challenge, felling the "world champion" with a single punch. He was declared "World Champion" and given prize money, but Jos refused the title and gave the money "to those poor folks who need it." He is immortalized in the songs "Johnny Monfarleau" by La Bolduc, "Jos Montferrand" by Gilles Vigneault and "Big Joe Mufferaw" by Stompin' Tom Connors, and many other cultural works.

(Translated from the original French by The Marxist-Leninist (TML))

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Monuments Honouring the Patriots

The Laurentians

In front of the Saint-Eustache church in which the Patriots barricaded themselves. The church was set on fire. On the facade one can still see the marks of the British cannons.

Parish of Saint-Eustache


Côte-des-neiges cemetery / Duvernay Monument in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery

Monument at the Au-Pied-du-Courant prison

South Shore





Mercier / La Prairie


Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu / Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu

Cemetery - Saint-Denis




Saint-Césaire, Neveu park






Hobart / Sidney

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