Sovereigntists triumphant as Ottawa cancels Plains of Abraham battle

MONTREAL - Quebec sovereigntists claimed victory over Ottawa on Tuesday after a re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was turfed from playing out on its original battlefield - or anywhere else in the province.

MONTREAL - Quebec sovereigntists claimed victory over Ottawa on Tuesday after a re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was turfed from playing out on its original battlefield - or anywhere else in the province.

And compared to the original 1759 clash, which featured carnage from musket fire and a barrage of cannonballs between British and French forces, this time no blood was spilled.

"The re-enactment is off, that's great," said Patrick Bourgeois of the Reseau de resistance du Quebecois.

"This thing unleashed passions. But ultimately, the responsibility for all of this is the people who concocted this dim-witted plan."

Mario Beaulieu, president of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal, called the National Battlefields Commission's decision to cancel the event a "victory for citizen mobilization."

"It's the federal government, which is controlled by the English-Canadian majority, that wants to commemorate one of the biggest defeats of the Quebecois people on its territory."

Citing major safety and security concerns, the battlefields commission cancelled the re-enactment that had been scheduled for the Plains of Abraham this summer - 250 years after the British triumph.

Quebec sovereigntist groups had promised to protest outside the re-enactment, while some made threats against organizers.

Some sovereigntists said staging the clash would have been an insulting reminder of the defeat of their French ancestors. A plan to hold a masked ball to mark the anniversary also irked opponents.

In Quebec's popular lore, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham is considered the end of francophone autonomy in North America and the start of British dominance.

Horst Dresler, president of the group that had been organizing the event, said he still hopes it goes ahead, possibly in Ontario.

"There is a need to present this commemoration, somewhere, somehow," Dresler said from his home state of Vermont.

Dresler added it will not be held anywhere in Quebec.

"These threats of violence that have been issued towards us would make it totally unsafe for anyone to participate in an event like this," he said.

"We arrive at a re-enactment with our families and our friends and our children and it's inconceivable to put anyone in harm's way."

He said the battle has been replayed on the grassy fields of the Plains three times in the past 15 years, and each went off without a hitch.

But Beaulieu said the battle shouldn't be replayed anywhere.

"It's not necessarily any more acceptable if it takes place in either Ontario or anywhere else," he said.

"It's like they're telling us they're going to insult us behind our backs."

Asked if his group would protest a re-enactment held in Ontario, Beaulieu replied: "We'll see."

He said he didn't agree with the intimidation tactics, which he claims were launched from both sides.

"For me, I think it's deplorable, but I think it was a true provocation on the part of the federal government," said Beaulieu, who is also demanding that Ottawa hand over control of heritage sites in Quebec to the province.

The battlefields commission said it had no choice but to retreat.

"Given the excessive language and threats we have heard in recent days, we can't as responsible managers risk compromising the safety of families and children who might attend the event," commission head Andre Juneau told a news conference in Quebec City.

"I am announcing that the commission has decided to cancel the re-enactment because of the impossibility of ensuring the safety of the public and the participants."

But Juneau said he is still convinced the event would have been fully justified from a historical point of view.

Canada's heritage minister said he's disappointed the re-enactment was cancelled amid threats from inside the separatist movement.

"That people threatened violence and it resulted in an event of this magnitude being cancelled I think is a real disappointment," James Moore told reporters in Montreal.

"This re-enactment has been planned for a number of years and it's just become a political issue now."

 
 
Latest From ...
Most Popular From ...