GG honours Montreal slave girl who was executed in error

Michaëlle Jean honors Montreal slave girl who was executed in error for 1734 fire.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean has honoured a young black slave from Portugal who was tortured, hanged and burned in 1734 after she was wrongly blamed for a fire that destroyed a hospital and 45 houses in the French colonial city of Montreal.

"I think today is sweet revenge," Canada's first black Governor General told the Montreal Gazette after laying a bouquet of Easter lilies beneath a plaque in Marie-Josephe Angelique's memory.

Angelique was executed 10 weeks after the fire broke out in April 1734.

Jean, a Montreal immigrant descended from slaves in Haiti, said Angelique was a proud black woman whose tragic story is a symbol of the Canadian dream of freedom and equality for all.

"Every time the story of Marie-Josephe Angelique is told to me, I'm filled with emotion, as we all are," Jean said, recalling how Angelique maintained her innocence until tortured into confessing.

"I can't help but think this woman, in the prime of her life, would have had a completely different fate if she had been of a different race or if she'd been free," Jean said. "She was treated that way because she was black.

"Racism has a history that we must never forget," Jean said. "The racism of today is an extension of the lingering racism of yesterday. If we forget this, then we risk perpetuating an unacceptable situation."