Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Separatists Promise 'Alternate' History during Canada's 150th Birthday

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Separatists Promise 'Alternate' History during Canada's 150th Birthday

Article excerpt

Duelling histories of Canada on offer in 2017

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MONTREAL - Quebec provincial politician Stephane Bergeron's use of quotation marks reflects his feelings on the federal government's plans for the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.

The member of the separatist Parti Quebecois says Ottawa is fond of commemorating "comfort history," or what he calls a sterile narrative that doesn't offend or delve deep into controversial aspects of the past.

"For these, quote, 'celebrations,' unquote, we risk being served the same kind of attitude," he said about the year-long festivities Ottawa is subsidizing to mark the country's milestone.

The official calendar of "Canada 150" includes a flotilla of "tall ships" sailing through various ports on the East Coast, travelling exhibitions, concerts and art projects.

Unofficially, the PQ is promising to crash the party with a year-long series of its own, offering an alternate point of view of the past 150 years to Quebecers and anyone else who wants to listen.

They're calling it the "Other 150," and Bergeron, along with Quebec historians and volunteers, are cobbling together a list of 150 moments in history between Quebec and Canada they plan on outlining over the next 12 months.

He wouldn't reveal many details, but offered one hint.

Confederation was essentially a Conservative project, he said. "The Liberals, in what became Quebec, were rather against it. I doubt the current Liberals will want to bring that up."

Bergeron's version of history isn't entirely correct but isn't entirely wrong either.

As a remedy to the violence of Upper and Lower Canada -- or what are known today as Ontario and Quebec, respectively -- the two territories fused into the Province of Canada, a political union lasting from 1841 to 1867.

In Canada East (Quebec), the radical and anti-clerical party called the Parti Rouge was strongly opposed to Confederation.

After Canada was born, moderate members of the Rouge merged with the pro-Confederation Clear Grits, in Canada West (Ontario), to become the modern-day version of the Liberal Party of Canada.

"The PQ can talk about the past, we'll talk about the future," said Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, whose department is leading the Canada 150 events. …

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