Quebec 1964

Will the Queen of England Come to Celebrate 100 Years of our Humiliation?

Source: Pierre Bourgault, Ecrits Polémiques Vol. I. VLB Editeur, Montreal, 1982;
First Published: L’Indépendance, March 1964;
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005.

The demonstrations that occurred during the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 1964, particularly the infamous “Truncheon Saturday,” were among the key catalyzing forces in the rise of the pro-independence movement. Pierre Bourgault (1930-2003), leader of the Rassemblement pour l’indépendance nationale, RIN, warned before her arrival of its possible results.

Next October the Queen of England is supposed to visit Charlottetown and Quebec to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the negotiations that led to the constituting of the Canadian Confederation.

Ottawa has decided this, and the French-Canadians have only to bow before the decision. Once again one of the most obvious symbols of our state as a colonized people will be paraded through our streets.

Two hundred years ago the English conquered French Canada by force of arms. Since then the domination has become more subtle: it’s now Ottawa that keeps us in guardianship through the force of a colonialist constitution and by the strength of numbers. But the facts haven’t changed much. In 1964 the French-Canadians don’t yet govern themselves and every day suffer the affront of being obliged to bow before the whims of “others.”

But this isn’t enough. They want to have us believe that the Confederation was a benefit to us, and we’re asked to receive with all due respect the Queen of England and Canada and to show our savoir vivre by acclaiming her. Once again we must be polite and bow our heads.

No! Not this time!

No. This time we won’t do it. If Elizabeth is the Queen of England and Canada, we for our part don’t consider her Queen of Quebec, and she doesn’t have the right to set foot on our territory unless she’s invited by the government of a sovereign state of Quebec.

Let us be understood. We have nothing against that woman who lives in the cold Buckingham Palace. She’s a person we respect and we don’t hold it against the English that they believe she represents something for them.

If we are protesting today it’s against what she represents for we Québécois. It’s against what her visit to Quebec represents.

Still today, 200 years after the conquest, French-Canadian functionaries of the government of Quebec and the government of Ottawa must swear allegiance to the Queen of England if they want to obtain employment. We find this odious.

The employees of Radio Canada or the National Film Board must swear allegiance to the Queen of England. We find this odious.

The members of the armed forces must swear allegiance to the Queen of England. We find this odious.

Many other citizens must swear allegiance to the Queen of England for many kinds of reasons. We find this odious.

The Canadian head of state isn’t the Prime Minister, but the Governor-General, the representative of the Queen of England. We find this odious.

The head of state of Quebec is not M. Lesage but the Lieutenant Governor, the representative of the Queen of England. We find this odious.

What is more, through the will of the ex-government of ex-Monsieur Saint-Laurent, the Queen of England has become the Queen of Canada. We find this odious.

It is against this obvious symbol of colonialism that we are rising up.

In itself all of this would be enough to justify the liveliest protests, but in addition there is the visit of the Queen of England.

She is coming to mark a specific event, that of the beginning of the Confederation. We know that in the hundred years that that Confederation has existed it has done nothing but further enslave the French-Canadians.

It is to celebrate this new conquest that the Queen will be coming to take a little tour among us. And we’re supposed to be content and show just how happy we are because of this!

But, no! Not this time. Either Ottawa cancels the Queen’s trip to Quebec or we can’t make any promises about the attitude that French-Canadians will take before this provocation.

We’ve had enough of this one-way good feeling, and Mr. Pearson will soon learn to his dismay, as well as that of the Queen of England, that we are no longer the polite little slaves that it was once possible to thwart at one’s ease.

The Queen should stay in her home. We will celebrate the centennial of injustices and exploitation in our way, and we don’t need foreign observers who will come here to once again stick their noses in our affairs.

Let the Queen take her little trip to Australia or Ghana if it makes her happy. But in Quebec we have decided to completely be masters in our own home.

Let all French-Canadians worthy of the name — be they independantistes or not — pass the word. Enter into battle now. We must immediately protest using all means. We must make Ottawa aware of the will of free Quebec and that we reject once and for all the symbols of Anglo-Saxon colonialism.

And if Ottawa doesn’t understand... well, too bad. Whatever happens, happens.