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Quebec City Flag
Quebec City Flag

One Man dies, one is critically injured

In a post on Thomas Hobbes‘ “Private Force,” dated 15 January 15 2013, I wrote that during the October Crisis, the Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, had sent in the troops, at the request of the Quebec Premier, Robert Bourassa and Montreal Mayor, Jean Drapeau.  Trudeau used the War Measures Act and put an end to several years of terrorism.

Pauline Marois

Pauline Marois, Quebec’s Premier



The above links tell a different story.  How could I be so forgetful?  The Front de Libération du Québec (the Quebec Liberation Front) no longer exists.  However, on 4 September 2012, the day Pauline Marois of the Parti Québécois, an indépendantiste (separatist) Party, was elected Premier of the Province of Quebec,[i] someone tried to shoot her.  The shooter, 62-year-old Richard Henry Bain, lost his footing when an alarmed individual intervened, preventing Mr Bain from killing Quebec’s Premier-elect Pauline Marois.  The shooter then aimed at 48-year-old Denis Blanchette, the person who intervened, killing him and critically injuring a second man.

Parti Québécois

Parti Québécois

This incident was not strictu sensu terrorism.  The man who tried to kill Premier-elect Pauline Marois was not a member of a terrorist organization.  He acted alone and it has yet to be determined whether or not he is fit to stand trial.  However, using plain common sense, it would seem reasonable to assume Mr Bain was extremely distraught and that the Parti Québécois’ victory may have angered him.  He muttered, in French, “les anglophones se réveillent” (the Anglophones are waking up) and, in English, that “[h]e want[ed] to cause trouble.”

For many Québécois and Quebecers, a Parti Québécois victory means yet another referendum: “to separate” or “not to separate” from Canada.  That’s what has happened in the past and it has been motivation to leave Quebec. However, Madame Marois’ victory does not seem no have perturbed anyone seriously, except Mr Bain.  Montreal is a very attractive and cosmopolitan city and will probably remain as it is, whichever way the pendulum swings.

However, as I wrote in my earlier post, Quebec has yet to sign the Patriated Constitution, ie. the Constitutional Act of 1982, which poses difficulties.  There have been attempts to solve this problem, one of which was the proposed Meech Lake Accord[I] (1987).  Had the various Premiers agreed, Quebec would have become an officially “distinct society,” which it is, unofficially or officieusement.  Given the circumstances, a deadlock, it may have been in the best interest of all parties concerned to pour “un peu d’eau dans leur vin,” ie. to make concessions in order to maintain Canadian unity.  The people of Quebec are sitting between two chairs.  They are a country within a country, Hobbes’ “private force.”

Which takes us to gun ownership…

So, last September 4 (2012), Pauline Marois, the current Premier of Quebec, was shot at, a man died, and a second man was critically injured.  Although, the federal government of Canada has relaxed Canada’s gun-control legislation, I do not think this change was a factor.  But given events in the United States, the rapid dissemination of debates through social networks such as Twitter, and last September’s attempt to assassinate Madame Marois, gun-control will and may already be a factor.

What happened to me will probably happen to others.  They will suddenly remember, as I did, that Charles Henry Bain tried to shoot Quebec Premier-elect Pauline Marois.  The American experience, the Newtown massacre in particular, will colour, probably to a lesser than greater extent, the Canadian experience.  In fact, Madame Marois is now remembering that a man tried to assassinate her.  The event is no longer a “glitch.”  Just click on the above links.  The National Riffle Association (NRA) and the militias seem an aberration to me.  Were it not that Canada trusts President Obama and his administration, we just might fear the NRA would gain supporters here.  As I wrote on 17 January, the Obama administration needs a great deal of support and it needs it now.

Jacques Cartier Stamp, 1934 issue

Jacques Cartier Stamp, 1934 issue

Jacques Cartier (31 December 1491 – 1 September 1557) claimed the “country of Canada” for France in 1534.  His three ships were called la Grande Hermine, la Petite Hermine and l’Émérillon.  He captured chief Donnacona’s two sons Domagaya and Taignoagny, but they were returned to their father a year later during Cartier’s second trip in 1535–1536.   Cartier waited too long, so ice prevented him from sailing back to France.  As we will see, Cartier’s men fell ill. Cartier came back to Canada in 1540–1541 in the hope of settling the “Kingdom of the Saguenay.” It was too great a risk, so he went back to France.

One of Jacques Cartier's Three Boats

One of Jacques Cartier’s Three Boats

The Canadian Experience

I do not expect a heated debate.  Unlike the United States, Canada did not have a Wild West.  In Canada, the “security of a free state,” the principle undergirding but now nullifying the Second Amendment, has not demanded that civilians bear arms.  Our November 15, 2012 heroine, Madeleine Jarret de Verchères, lived in a fortress and had guns at her disposal, but that was a long time ago.

Survival …

The following thought may not have reached all if any textbooks, but the truth is that, from the earliest days of New France, Canadians have needed the Amerindians.  Jacques Cartier’s men would not have survived their first winter in Canada (1535-1536).  They were dying of scurvy.  The Amerindians could have let them die, but didn’t.  Instead, they supplied the marrooned French with thuja occidentalis or annedda.  The men survived.  Annedda, contained Vitamin C, the remedy, and could be made using birchbark.

Moreover, to travel westward and collect Canada’s gold: beaver pelt, French settlers, coureurs des bois to begin with, and, later, voyageurs, needed the Algonkian birchbark canoe.  If a canoe was destroyed shooting down potentially deadly rapids, one could be rebuilt without recourse to anything that was not immediately available.  In fact, the canoe used by voyageurs and explorers may well become one of the seven wonders of Canada (CBC.ca).  Amerindians also fed the voyageurs.  They prepared sagamité.

As for élite voyageurs who wintered west, minding the company store, they had signed a three-year contract, at first, with a bourgeois and, later, with either the Hudson’s Bay Company, established in 1670, or the North-West Company, active from 1779 to 1821.  They may have had a wife on the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, to whom they sent money, but the voyageurs needed a spare wife, an Améridienne.  Thus a people was born: the Métis.

Métis Family ca. 1826 (Bata Shoe Museum P80.982)

Métis Family, by Peter Rindisbacher, ca. 1826 (Bata Shoe Museum P80.982) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peter Rindisbacher (12 April 1806 12 August or 13 August 1834; aged 28)

Les Filles du Roy

Jean Talon, Bishop François de Laval and several settlers welcome the King’s Daughters upon their arrival. Painting by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know, moreover, that France was somewhat slow in sending women to Canada.  The filles du roy, the King’s Daughters, arrived between 1663 and 1673 and many married men who were members of the Régiment de Carignan-Salières.  These soldiers arrived in the middle of 1665.  They were invited to stay in New France where most became seigneurs.  Among French-speaking Canadians whose ancestors arrived in New France before 1663, many, if not most, have Amerindian ancestry.

The Snowshoe and Canoe Mythified

It follows that Canadians have mythified the beaver, the canoe, the lumberman’s snowshoes and Louis Riel, the Métis “Father of Manitoba,” but a tragic figure in the history of Canada.  Despite an endless border with the United States, for most of Canada’s history, its citizens have not required firearms to ensure their security.  Not only did Canada need its Amerindians, but there was too little room in the beaver-pelt laden canoes to accommodate several rifles.  Moreover, rumor has it that the Mounties arrived before the settlers.  As for settlers, they were directed to specific areas.

Yet Canada has its factious “private force” (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Part II, xxii), the separatists.  For a few years, during the 1960s, the “private force” had its terrorist wing.  Canadians do not bear arms, but last September 4, someone, not an indépendantiste, did try to shoot Pauline Marois and caused the useless death of Denis Blanchette, the man who tried to prevent an assassination.  He will never come back and Madame Marois now remembers.  But, will she remember long enough not to hold a referendum?

© Micheline Walker
January 19, 2013
Photo credit: Wikipedia
[i] Pauline Marois defeated Premier Jean Charest of the Parti Libéral (federalist) and François Legault of the Coalition Avenir Quebec CAQ), also an indépendantiste party. 
[ii] Also see Gerald L. Gall,Meech Lake Accord,” The Canadian Encyclopedia.
composer: Erik Satie (17 May 1866 – Paris, 1 July 1925) 
piece: Gnossienne No.1
performer: Lang Lang