Saturday, February 14, 2009

Harper weighs in on Plains of Abraham reenactment, presto, event cancelled

Yeah, about that reenactment of the battle on the Plains of move quickly after the PM weighs in!

Harper on Friday:
Harper said Friday the decision to allow the re-enactment to go ahead rests with the National Battlefields Commission, which administers the Plains.

"That's for the commission to decide what is appropriate," Harper said of the Aug. 1 commemoration.

"What I know is this: For most Canadians and most Quebecers, that battle is an important event but it is an historical battle," the prime minister said to a burst of applause from workers at Montreal's CAE plant when he repeated the remarks in English.

He said the Bloc Quebecois "want to keep fighting today."

"Most Canadians have moved beyond this. We're not fighting battles across the country in workplaces like this. English- and French-Canadians work together and we're going to continue to keep this country together forever."
Note the additional context, however, in this report, entitled, "Harper lashes out at Bloc":
Harper was applauded by the assembled CAE employees when he repeated his remarks in English, but there was no audience reaction when he first said them in French.
Now this is not the worst intervention we've seen from the PM, and he should be singing the national unity hymn. But in the midst of this tense debate, the perception he created with his remarks, which could have been more tactful, was one of the PM stirring up the matter. That can't have helped.

The ensuing result today, immediately on the heels of his weighing in:
There are reports organizers of the planned summer re-enactment of the 1759 battle on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City have decided against going ahead with the event because of the potential for violent conflict between federalists and sovereignists.

According to the "Journal de Quebec", sources involved in making the decision said the event has been cancelled, due to strong opposition and a series of serious threats from extremists. The newspaper said organizers did not want to put people's "lives or physical integrity" in danger.
CP reporting it too. I am inclined to agree with this view, which a Twitterer linked to today. This is the kind of sense which we could stand to have a lot more of at the federal level these days and on such issues in particular:
The decision of the National Battlegrounds Commission to stage a full-scale re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham to commemorate the 250th anniversary of this event ranks among the most crassly stupid ideas I have heard.

I doubt that sensible people would welcome a recommendation by historians, for example, that they re-enact the sacking of Washington and burning of the White House by the British and the retaliatory burning of "Muddy York" (Toronto) by the Americans in the War of 1812. There are hundreds of examples of historical events that it is plain silly or even dangerous to commemorate.
The re-enacting of the battle is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The proof of the pudding is that the Quebec nationalists are already up in arms because of this insulting reminder, whereas they have been relatively quiet in recent years.

Some argue that they re-enact old battles in countries as diverse as the United States, Great Britain and Spain. Once again, the point is that these historic battles are not between two ethnic groups still trying to accommodate each other in the same society.(emphasis added)
And then there's just the whole silliness of putting on these kinds of events. What the attraction is in watching adults in costumes reenacting such violence, put me down as a big question mark. In any event, looks like the heat will turn down now as it's been cancelled. That is a good thing and should not be perceived as a concession to separatists that they have somehow "won" here. It looks like this was an ill-conceived idea that lived just long enough to rile up tensions and now is being put to a proper rest.