MONTREAL – Politicians in Quebec are refusing to attend an event marking the 250th anniversary of a battle between the French and British that paved the way for Canada's creation because of plans for the reading of a terror group's manifesto at the celebration.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Quebec City Cabinet Minister Sam Hamad and Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume said this week they would not take part in a commemoration that is to include a reading of a Front de Liberation du Quebec text.
The reading is scheduled to take place this weekend on the Plains of Abraham, the site where the British conquered the French in 1759 on a plateau just outside the walls of Quebec City.
The FLQ fought in the 1960s and 1970s for Quebec's separation from Canada. The organization was responsible for a series of bombings in the 1960s, including an attack that killed Wilfred O'Neill, who had been a watchman at a Canadian Army recruiting center.
FLQ members also kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross and Quebec Cabinet Minister Pierre Laporte in 1970. Cross was released, but Laporte was murdered.
The Sept. 12-13 event — dubbed "Moulin paroles," or "Chatterbox" in French — will feature more than 100 readers reciting 140 texts over 24 hours.
Organizers said the texts, when viewed as a whole, reflect the history of Quebec and include everything from recipes, to poetry and Anglophone novel excerpts.
They said they won't omit the FLQ manifesto because its part of Quebec's heritage.
"We didn't do it to provoke people. ... The FLQ text is strong, and it's significant in the context of Quebec," said Sebastien Ricard, one of the event's organizers and a performer in the Quebec rap group Loco Locass.
The 250th anniversary of the historic battle on the Plains has triggered no end of debate this year.
The controversy began in February with plans to re-enact the pivotal 1759 battle in which the English defeated the French as General James Wolfe's British soldiers overpowered Louis-Joseph de Montcalm's French troops. The enactment plans sparked angry protests that led to the event being canceled due to concerns about security.
In place of the recreating the battle, descendants of both Wolfe and Montcalm will read letters from their ancestors during this weekend's commemoration.
Luck Mervil, the popular Montreal entertainer who is reciting the FLQ manifesto, said it was part of history.
"What we're doing is we're reading actual texts. We're not changing anything," he said.