2009 marks the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, an event that is still remembered by many Canadians. I believe that we should include a prominent reference to this battle in the Remembrance Day ceremonies held this year at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
The National War Memorial, originally built to honour the memory of those who died in the First World War, has now come to represent the losses suffered in all of Canada’s wars both here in North America and overseas. Increasingly, the space around the memorial has been used to commemorate those who died in pre-Confederation conflicts rather than only those who fell in the better-known wars of the twentieth century.
In 2006, statues and busts of important figures from Canada’s pre-Confederation military history were installed around the National War Memorial. The individuals represented by these statues include: Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac; Mohawk chief Joseph Brant; Laura Secord; and Sir Isaac Brock.
Although these statues, known collectively as the Valiants Memorial/ Monument aux Valeureux, are fine works of art, the decision to omit any representation of the British and French commanders at the Plains of Abraham, Generals Wolfe and Montcalm, was highly unfortunate. (It would be interesting to speculate on why statues of Wolfe and Montcalm were not included. My guess is the National Capital Commission‘s fear of touching a potentially explosive political issue outweighed its interest in promoting an awareness of Canadian history).
Although it is, of course, too late to include a permanent symbolic tribute to Wolfe and Montcalm in the National War Memorial in time for this year’s Remembrance Day, there is another way we can commemorate the memories of Wolfe, Montcalm, and all those who died on the Plains of Abraham. I believe that the descendants of Generals Wolfe and de Montcalm should be invited to Ottawa to participate in this year’s ceremony as the honoured guests of the Government of Canada. Representatives of the First Nations present at the battle should also be invited to take a prominent place in this year’s ceremonies.
Andrew Wolfe Burroughs, a descendant of General Wolfe and Georges Savarin de Marestan, a descendant of General Montcalm, have participated in events related to the memory of their illustrious ancestors on numerous occasions. As a result of working together on heritage projects, Burroughs and de Marestan are now good friends. Their ability to put aside past hatreds is inspiring to all those who hope for a more peaceful world. It is fitting to highlight the Battle of the Plains of Abraham by inviting Burroughs and de Marestan to this year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies. The friendship of these two men is, in some ways, representative of the friendship that English- and French-speaking Canadians, the descendants of the two armies of 1759, now feel for each other. For 250 years, English- and French-speakers have lived together in Canada with a minimal amount of violence. In a world rent frequent by ethnic violence and civil war, the history of the relationship between Canada’s two largest linguistic groups can act as a beacon of hope in the world. The beginning of this historical relationship deserves to be commemorated on 11 November 2009.
The Government of Canada should invite Andrew Wolfe Burroughs and Georges Savarin de Marestan to participate in the 2009 Remembrance Day ceremonies.
All images in this post are from the Wikimedia Commons and are used under a Creative Commons Licence.