Québec, Quebec, Canada.
5. June, 2017.
One wrong decision can sometimes have drastic consequences. Stay inside or go outside. Let’s toss a coin. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham in September 1769 was fought between French and British forces outside the strong walls of Québec. The outcome was in British favour although they lost their commander, General James Wolfe, in the opening moments. The French commander General Louis-Joseph Marquis de Montcalm died too the next day from his wounds. Had the French forces been content to stay inside the fort the outcome could have been different. Quebec would have remained a French territory and the subsequent history and settlement of North America would have been different. How however is anybody’s guess.
Today Quebec is still a French-speaking province (80%) within the English-language dominated state of Canada, which also is part of the British Commonwealth. The English-French rivalry and sometimes hostility through the ages has also echoed in Canada. Centuries old enemies are now forced to live together. Not always happily as the French-speakers centred in Quebec province have ever since that fateful decision of general Montcalm in 1769, felt threatened, surrounded and dominated by English-speakers. History is not always important in daily lives of ordinary people. In Quebec history is never forgotten and is an integral part of not just political life, but also of identity and daily life in the province. Two referendums in 1985 and 1995 on Quebec succession from Canada and a subsequent independence have by the narrowest of margins (1%) kept the province within Canada.
Quebec is Canada’s second largest province and the second most populous one. It is also an economic powerhouse. After Ontario is has the second largest economic output of Canada. The climatically harsher northern and central parts where most of the natural resources lie, are however largely inhabited by Nēhiyaw (Cree) and Inuit peoples. Those aboriginal people demand their own province similar to the Nunavut province in the north of Canada which is inhabited mostly by Inuits. The former Ungava province, that was merged with Quebec province in 1920, covers most of that area. The Québécois (as the French-speaking inhabitants of Quebec are called) have blocked any such territorial changes. That stance is supported by Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, who have Native Americans inhabiting most of the northern parts of their provinces.
Establishment of a new province for Native Americans in Canada would have a great effect on the political and economic landscape for the other provinces of Canada. Especially so if native groups within them would demand the same rights. For example, a province for all Nēhiyaw (Cree) and Anishinaabe (Ojibwa/Chippewa, Odawa, Potawatomi, Algonquin, Mississauga) peoples would be Canada’s largest, and like Nunavut, sparsely populated with less than one million inhabitants. As the situation is today with these peoples, with powerless, sometimes corrupt, local governments on tiny reservations with little infrastructure and bleak economic future, a province of their own would offer a welcome opportunity for economic, social and cultural revival. A dream come true for many of them. Although not suitable for much agriculture at this altitude, the land in question has however various natural resources. The economic impact of such territorial changes would be tremendous for all parties involved. Such a change could also impact the southern neighbour, the United States, as part of the Anishinaabe nation inhabit lands south of the border. No wonder the provinces and the political establishment oppose any such changes in order of things in Canada.
Back to contemporary Quebec, especially Québec city, the capital of same named restive province. It has been four years since I came here for the first time in July 2013. Staying then in Stoneham, a well to do town just north of Québec city that comes to life during the winter time, I truly enjoyed my stay. I am back though for a second time to enjoy Québec. From the magnificent historic World Heritage site of Vieux Québec (old town) within the old city walls with charming small shops and good restaurants and bars, to the great mansion of Château Frontenac and the fortress of Citadelle de Québec. The city also has a good aquarium, Parc Aquarium du Québec, for young and old alike. The province is also the birthplace of the famous circus group Cirque du Soleil. Performing regularly for free in the center of Québec, their show is one of the more memorable experiences ever. Just north of the city is Parc National de la Jacques Cartier where one can put to test kayaking and canoeing skills in fantastic surroundings.
One of the suburbs of Québec is L’Ancienne-Lorette in which can be found the Native American Huron-Wendat First Nation of Wendake with 3,000 members. A well to do but a small area with a flourishing hotel, Hotel Premieres Nations Wendake, interactive museum, reconstructed Iroquoian-style village, various shops and handsome homes. The reservation gives an image of an affluent life for it’s members, unlike most other reservations in Canada. It is an area well worth visiting for tourists to Québec city.