MONTREAL – A federal agency says it will give the green light to an event on the Plains of Abraham despite controversy over the public reading of a terrorist manifesto.
The National Battlefields Commission, which oversees Canada’s historic battlefields, said Tuesday it will allow the event to proceed despite the controversy involving the Front de Liberation du Quebec.
A decision to include the terrorist group’s manifesto among items to be read at the event has prompted a boycott by federalist politicians, and an angry counter-reaction from Quebec sovereigntists.
But battlefields commission spokeswoman Joanne Laurin says a final agreement is to be signed sometime in the next few days approving use of the land for next weekend’s event. She says that doesn’t mean the federal agency endorses the event.
“We’re not supporting the event, we’re just agreeing to allow it (on the land),” Laurin said.
The 250th anniversary of the historic battle on the Plains has triggered no end of debate this year.
It began with plans to re-enact the pivotal 1759 battle in which the English defeated the French, plans which sparked angry protests that led to the event’s cancellation due to concerns about security.
A group of artists then followed up with plans to read 140 poems and historical documents – an event dubbed ‘Moulin a paroles,’ or ‘chatterbox’ in English.
The 24-hour performance is slated to take place this Saturday and Sunday in Quebec City.
Quebec entertainers, artists and politicians are expected to take part, including ex-premier Bernard Landry and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe.
The planned readings include the manifesto of the terrorist group that triggered the 1970 October crisis after a string of bombings and kidnappings in support of Quebec independence.
The manifesto was first read on the CBC French-language service as a condition for the release of kidnapped British trade official James Cross. The other high-profile kidnapping victim, Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, was killed.
Federal politicians and the Quebec government have disassociated themselves from the event, and accused organizers of being apologists for terrorism.
Sovereigntist politicians and event organizers countered that the accusation is nonsense.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said that the manifesto is part of Canadian history – like it or not.
“The FLQ manifesto was read last year at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa,” Duceppe said before a Bloc caucus meeting in Quebec City.
“There will be texts from Lord Durham that will be read – that doesn’t mean we’re okay with that.”
Durham is a loathed figure in Quebec history for his idea of merging Upper and Lower Canada into one colony to extinguish the French language and culture through assimilation.
Supporters note that the event will feature a wide range of texts – from the Canadian national anthem to works by Leonard Cohen and prominent Quebec poets.
Organizers accuse the Quebec government of infringing on artistic liberty.