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Monumental controversy over Mackenzie King snub

The Story


Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is not happy. A monument has just been unveiled in Quebec City to commemorate the wartime summit meetings between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at which Mackenzie King played host. To memorialize the occasion, Quebec City officials have decided to erect busts of Roosevelt and Churchill... but King has been completely left out. "Not to honour him while honouring Churchill and Roosevelt is terrible," says a disgusted Chrétien in this CBC National news report. In protest, Chrétien refuses to attend the unveiling ceremony. Meanwhile, a small group of vocal protesters shows up at the event, while one veteran interviewed refers to the occasion as a festival of separatists. But there's another side to this story -- Quebec City officials and several historians contend that this has nothing to do with separatism; King just doesn't really deserve to be there. He was only the host at these meetings, they say, not a key player.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: May 7, 1998
Guest(s): Jean Chrétien, Peter Goldring, Pierre Roy
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Tom Kennedy
Duration: 2:41

Did You know?


• British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt held a series of historic meetings in Quebec City in 1943 and 1944. Mackenzie King attended these conferences and acted as host. At these meetings, extremely important war strategies were established. The plans for D-Day - the allied invasion of Normandy that would mark the beginning of the end of the war - were first mapped out at the 1943 Quebec conference.

• King was thrilled to be a part of these important meetings. "I must confess to having had great peace of mind and quiet joy of heart as I thought of all that had happened in the last three weeks and what it meant," he wrote in his diary in August 1943. King took pleasure in his role as host, and proudly brought Roosevelt out to see Kingsmere after the first conference was over.

• When Quebec City didn't include King in the Churchill-Roosevelt monument in 1998, many Canadian politicians were incensed. Reform MP Peter Golding, for instance, called it another example of Quebec separatists belittling Canada's contribution to the war. This event clearly exacerbated French-English tensions in Canada.

• Numerous historians maintained that King didn't actually play a major role in the conferences. University of PEI historian David Woolner wrote an article in the Globe and Mail during the height of this controversy, stating: "It would be inaccurate and a disservice to the memory and dignity of King to imply... that he was a full partner in the 1943 and 1944 summit conferences." He urged those who were using this event to make political accusations to "drop their political posturing and look at the facts."


More

Mackenzie King: Public Life, Private Man more