Chantier Politique

June 23, 2019

English Edition, No. 12

June 24, 2019 - Happy National Day!

Celebrating 185 Years of Quebec's National Day

June 24, 1834 - The Patriots Inaugurate National Day
Summer Solstice and Quebec's National Day
Congratulations: Amherst Street Is Now Atateken Street!

June 24, 2019 - Happy National Day!

Celebrating 185 Years of Quebec's National Day

This year we are celebrating the 185th anniversary of Quebec's National Day. On June 24, 1834, Ludger Duvernay, founder of the patriotic institution Aide-toi le ciel t'aidera ("God helps those who help themselves") inaugurated this day as the National Day of the nascent nation and dedicated the first toast to the people as "the primary source of all legitimate authority." The National Day, "a celebration, whose goal is to cement the union between Canadiens"[today, the term Quebeckers is used - CP note] - La Minerve, June 26, 1834 - has since been the opportunity to celebrate -- with music and song, meetings, parades and neighbourhood activities -- who we are as a people, where we have come from and where we are going. It is a multi-faceted celebration, similar to the ancient summer solstice and the tradition, since time immemorial of the Harvest Feast, or simply the change of season and the need  for all of us, from all our various social and national origins, to come together to take stock of our common history.

This year, we celebrate the National Day with nearly 6,500 activities spread over almost 700 locations, including 323 fireworks displays, 342 bonfires, 1,178 shows and 2,156 family activities on June 23 and 24.

It is also a political celebration, a quality that varies in its expression depending on the times and circumstances. It is an occasion to reflect upon  how to ensure the building of our modern Quebec in defence of the rights of all. This need to get together increases with the growing marginalization of the people from political power.

Although the parties of the cartel party system in Parliament and in the National Assembly want to be seen as the champions of Quebec's  "values," they are unable to put forward a unifying nation-building project in which relations between the peoples are based on the affirmation the rights of all and on sovereign nation-to-nation relations.

This year's National Day takes place in a complex and difficult situation. The more the ruling elite speaks of social cohesion and of Quebec expressing its nationhood,  the more it divides people and incites passions on every basis possible, such as as with regard to religion and the clothing one wears, immigrants and migrants as is presently the case, to divert us from the struggle for modern arrangements that vest decision-making power in the people so that we can  humanize the natural and social environment. Meanwhile, the Quebec state is being usurped by global supranational private interests, which are the real decision-makers and are implicating us in their nation-wrecking and towards the path of war.

On the occasion of Quebec's National Day, the PMLQ salutes the people, especially the youth, for their determination to defend the rights of all -- of all human beings that make up a modern Quebec --  irrespective of origin, gender or religious beliefs. The will to speak in one's own name, in defending the path to society's progress, for the people of Quebec, Canada and all the peoples, is being expressed with force and is cause for celebration on the occasion of the National Day.

Drawing on its rich history and experience of living together, the people of Quebec are at the dawn of a great renewal. To achieve this, we must settle the issue of who decides, that is to say, of how to vest decision-making power in the people in all matters of concern to them. Finding a solution to the problem of who decides is the most unifying of quests, a continuation of the struggle waged by the Patriots of 1837-1838.

Happy National Day!

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June 24, 1834 - The Patriots
Inaugurate National Day

Inauguration of National Day June 24, 1834 (BanQ)

On June 26, 1834, La Minerve (whose purpose was to "spread education especially in the agricultural class and defend the Just Claims of Canadiens" - La Minerve, February 12, 1827),  published an article on a banquet  held 2 days earlier. "This celebration, the purpose of which is to cement the union between Canadiens, will not be fruitless. It will be celebrated every year as the National Day." Ludger Duvernay, founder of the patriotic organization "Aide-toi et le ciel t'aidera" ("God helps those who help themselves") lead the initiative. Duvernay was also publisher and editor of the patriot newspaper La Minerve.

An explicitly political celebration, the first National Day established within the context of the struggle of the inhabitants of Lower Canada to affirm their rights against the British Crown. In fact, in February 1834, 92 resolutions were passed by the House of Assembly of Lower Canada claiming greater control by citizens over the economic and political decisions made in the colony.

Without waiting for a decision from London, the celebration of the first National Day was organized in the garden of the lawyer MacDonnell. More than 37 toasts and speeches were made, all of them saluting the enlightened ideas of the time and the people defending them. The first toast was to the people as the "the primary source of all legitimate authority, and the day we are celebrating."

Article from La Minerve, June 24 1834, highlighting the First Banquet of National Day (BanQ)

Far from division on the basis of language or national origin which is imposed on us by the past and present establishment, participants highlighted the contribution of the Irish patriots and that of Daniel Tracey, founder of the Irish Vindicator and Canada General Advertiser, who supported the demands of the people of Lower Canada seeking to exercise control over their destiny.

The struggle of William Lyon Mackenzie and of the "other reformers of Upper Canada" to assert the rights of the nascent nation of the day was also toasted. The arrival of British citizens in Lower Canada was also welcomed. The Patriots who were present at the banquet, La Minerve reported, celebrated "Emigration: May the thousands of British subjects who come every year to seek asylum on our shores against the abuses and oppression they are suffering in their native country, such will not take place amongst us and may they find the welcome they deserve! They will form with the people of Canada an impenetrable and irresistible phalanx against tyranny."

A specific toast was also raised to the "artisans and working classes of Montreal and of this country in general. May education continue to spread among  society's useful members; may they procure the well-being and ease that their work deserves."

The first National Day also began another tradition, that is alive and well today, of offering songs and poems as forms of Quebec's celebrations.

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Summer Solstice and Quebec's National Day

Summer solstice celebrations in Kinawit, Val d'Or June 21, 2019 (Val-d'Or Native Friendship Centre)

Originally, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day was intimately tied to the celebrations surrounding the summer solstice. The days between June 21 and 24 being the longest, all kinds of activities were organized to pay tribute to the sun since time immemorial. The bonfires, a tribute to the light, served as public rejoicing, mainly in what was Gaul and northern Europe. The summer solstice is still being celebrated to this day in Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, England, Peru, Ecuador, Canada and other countries

In what was to be Quebec, the tradition was noted by the Jesuit Louis LeJeune on the banks of the St. Lawrence in 1636. In 1646, the Journal des Jésuites reported that "on the 23rd of June a bonfire is lit on Saint-Jean's Day at  eight-thirty in the evening. Five cannon shots were fired and the muskets were fired two or three times." In the rural environment that was New France at that time, the rhythm of work was linked to the seasons, and the Day provided a few moments of respite and entertainment before the start of the big haymaking and harvest work.

The Church, through the Council of Trent (1545-1563), attempted to Christianize the solstice celebration -- a celebration of light around a joyous bonfire -- by replacing it with a portrayal of submission in the person of Saint John the Baptist, "the lamb of God." In the same vein, in 1702, Monseigneur de Saint-Vallier in his Catechism for the Diocese of Quebec, which was intended for the Canadiens, noted that the Catholic Church in the New World (i.e. the colonies of the French empire) considered that ceremony acceptable so long as the "dances and superstitions" of the Natives were banished.

When Ludger Duvernay and the elected members of the Patriot Party inaugurated the National Day of the nascent Quebec nation, they did so within a spirit very different from the orientation desired by the church. Historians like Leopold Gagner, quoted in Denis Monière's biography of Duvernay, said that Duvernay had been influenced by St. Patrick's Day, which for the Irish is "a precious instrument for the reclamation of their freedom and rights."

It is noteworthy that today on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, a "Solstice of the Nations," also takes place. It is "an expression of exchange and friendship amongst the nations living in Quebec." The Fire Ceremony is held by the Indigenous nations "to encourage closer ties amongst the peoples living on Quebec's territory," so that "the coals of that fire light up the bonfire of the Great Show of Quebec's National Celebration, on the Plains of Abraham."

The celebration of the Quebec people's National Day includes the celebration of the Patriots who fought for independence from Britain in the mid-19th century: Nelson, De Lorimier, Côté, Chénier, Duvernay and O'Callaghan and many others. They fought to establish an independent homeland and republic that vests sovereignty in the people. It includes celebrating all those who have espoused and continue to espouse the cause of the Quebec Patriots, in particular all those committed to elaborating a nation-building project commensurate with the needs of the times.

More summer solstice celebrations on the occasion of National Indigenous Peoples Day 2019.
Left: Quebec City, Right: Saguenay (Quebec City Native Friendship Centre, Saguenay Native Friendship Centre)

-La Saint-Jean-Baptiste, 1634-1852, in Mélanges historiques Études éparses et inédites de Benjamin Sulte, compiled, annotated and published by Gérard Malchelosse
-Le réseau de diffusion des archives du Québec

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Amherst Street Is Now Atateken Street!

On June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) Ghislain Picard announced at a press conference the name change of Amherst Street to Atateken Street (pronounced Ah-dah-deh-gan), which means "fraternity" in the kanien’kéha (Mohawk) language. The name change will take effect in September 2019.

Members of the Indigenous toponymy committee at the press conference highlighted the innovative collaborative work with partners from many nations including the Mohawk Nation and the urban community, within the context of the reconciliation process with First Nations peoples. Also in the crowd were many who had fought for more than a decade for this name change to come to life. Neighbourhood residents were amongst the crowd, who  came to listen to the many speakers and applaud the name change.

First and foremost the name change was brought about by the efforts of the First Nations and the people of Quebec through various actions including petitions and demonstrations in the early 2000s. In 2017 the city announced that the name would be changed to honour First Nations as a gesture of reconciliation toward First Nations peoples. The new name was chosen by a committee composed of Indigenous peoples.

Ghislain Picard said, "Now that Amherst Street has a new name, the spirit of our peoples, the spirit of our ancestors can now rest in peace." However, they could not forget this "extremely painful" chapter of "our common history," he added. "I am still shocked by this point in history in which a merciless attack was carried out against our people. How could this be planned? How could that be executed? I am really shocked and troubled," he said.

The street had been originally named for Field Marshall Lord Jeffrey Amherst who served as an officer in the British Army and as Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces. After conquering New France for Britain he became the first British Governor General in the territories in British North America that eventually became Canada. Amherst openly advocated for the extermination of indigenous peoples and employed biological warfare against them by gifting them blankets infected with smallpox.

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