Was James Wolfe Gay?

2 01 2010

Benjamin West, The Death of General Wolfe, 1771

This is the provocative title of an article in today’s Seaway Times.

Wolfe, Montcalm, Remembrance Day 2009 Part II

22 09 2009

Christopher Moore has commented on my proposal that the Government of Canada invite the descendants of Wolfe and Montcalm to the 2009 Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa.

He had this to say : “Andrew’s well worth a read. But the dead of 1759 who continue to resonate for me are the townspeople killed as their houses crumbled under shellfire during the siege of Quebec, the civilians shot down in skirmishes with the British, the militia who died in their thousands during the whole of the war, even the elderly and the children who died of malnutrition and fevers during the grim winters of that struggle. And that’s not to mention the Acadians, the people of Louisbourg…  It would be too bad if our understanding of that became caught up in honouring a French and a British general — or wrangling whether to honour them. Could we not honour an unknown soldier of the Canadian War of the Conquest?”

I certainly agree with Christopher  that we should remember all those who died in that battle—my proposal to invite the descendants of the two best-known casualties is intended to raise awareness of all those of who perished, white and Native, general and privates, civilians and military.

Moulin à paroles

14 09 2009

Canadian newspapers have published quite a bit about Moulin à paroles, a controversial event that took place on the Plains of Abraham this past weekend. I am interested in the controversy because of what it says about the ongoing importance of the social memory of the famous 1759 battle fought there. I have made a compilation of links to news/commentary items about the event.

Les journaux canadiens ont publie beaucoup des pièces sur le « Moulin à paroles », un événement controversé qui avait lieu sur les plaines d’Abraham à Québec la fin de semaine passés. La controverse m’intéresse parce que je suis historien du Canada. J’ai fait une compilation des liens.

English-language newspapers and websites/ journaux anglophones :



St Catherines Standard

Vancouver Sun

Journaux francophones/ French-language newspapers :

Le Devoir



La Presse Canadienne


Le Journal De Québec

Related Story :

The a group of veterans in Calgary has unveiled a statue of General James Wolfe.

Plains of Abraham

9 09 2009

The National Battlefield Commission, the federal agency responsible for the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, has decided to allow a controversial event to proceed. The event, which has been organized by a group of Quebec nationalists, will include a reading of the FLQ 1970 manifesto. (For the benefit of non-Canadian readers, I should point out that the FLQ was a terrorist organization whose antics resulted in the imposition of martial law in Canada for a brief period in 1970).  Some critics regard the forthcoming event as glorifying terrorism. (See here as well).

I have two thoughts about the decision of the Commission to allow the event to go ahead. First, I’m struck by the tremendous symbolic importance that Canadians, particularly Quebeckers, still attach to the Plains of Abraham. Earlier this year, there was a media firestorm in both English- and French-speaking Canada over the issue of whether or not a re-enactment of the famous battle should be allowed to take place. (See here, here, and here).

Second, the decision of a federal agency to allow an event that appears to commemorate the FLQ to take place on federal property illustrates that the October Crisis has now become just another historical event. The majority of Canadians now alive were born after 1970, and the major protagonists involved in the crisis (Trudeau, Bourassa, Cross) are now dead.  Not a single member of the House of Commons that voted in favour of imposing the War Measures Act in 1970 is still in parliament. I suspect that in 1990, just twenty years after the October Crisis, it would have unthinkable for a federal agency to have allowed this event of this sort of go ahead. But memories and passions appear to have faded enough for the October Crisis to no longer be a painful memory. Indeed, for most Canadians, it is not a memory, simply something learned about in history books.