Alonzo Le Blanc
When the word half-breed strikes the ear of a Quebecer, the image it prompts is that of a hero, Louis Riel, the leader of an important rebellion in the Canadian West, arrested by order of John A. MacDonald, founder of the Canadian Confederation, and executed for murder after sentence was pronounced in 1885. Louis Riel's identity depended on the fact that he was a half-breed, born of a father of mixed blood and a mother of French ancestry. His execution was regarded as a national insult in the province of Quebec, where Riel had received his secondary education, for it put an abrupt end to the dream of a Native North American and Francophone community in western Canada. A whole century would pass before the memory of Louis Riel would be rehabilitated and the legitimacy of his cause recognized by the Federal Government in Ottawa. Yet his struggle had always seemed exemplary in the eyes of Quebecers because, despite his status as a half- breed, he embodied resistance to political homogenization. No doubt there was in this recognition an instinctive solidarity and a spontaneous identification with an Indian brother.
Contrary to what is commonly believed outside of Canada, Quebec has been the locus of an extraordinary racial mixing of the population. When you hear, as in a recent advertisement, "Nous sommes six millions de presque parents"--indeed seven million now--you might imagine, on the basis of genealogies neatly conserved through baptismal records, that old Quebec families with names like Tremblay, Lévesque, Bouchard, Côté, Gagnon, Charest, Lachance, Lacroix,