Montreal

Plains of Abraham event a go despite FLQ flap

A federal agency says it will give the green light to an event on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City despite controversy over the public reading of a terrorist manifesto.

A federal agency says it will give the green light to an event on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City despite controversy over the public reading of a terrorist manifesto.

The National Battlefields Commission, which oversees Canada's historic battlefields, said Tuesday it will allow the event to proceed despite the controversy involving the Front de Libération du Québec.

 What is the FLQ?

  • The Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) was a nationalist, sovereigntist, revolutionary group in Quebec most active in the 1960s and early 1970s. It claimed responsibility for more than 200 bombings, including a 1969 attack on the Montreal Stock Exchange.
  • The FLQ's attacks came to a head in 1970, in what is now known as the October Crisis, when British Trade Commissioner James Cross was kidnapped and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte was murdered.

A decision to include the terrorist group's manifesto among items to be read at the event has prompted a boycott by federalist politicians and an angry counter-reaction from Quebec sovereigntists.

But battlefields commission spokeswoman Joanne Laurin says approval for use of the land for next weekend's event is to be finalized in the next few days. She says that doesn't mean the federal agency endorses the event.

"We're not supporting the event; we're just agreeing to allow it [on the land]," Laurin said.

The 250th anniversary of the historic battle on the Plains has triggered no end of debate this year.

It began with plans to re-enact the pivotal 1759 battle in which the English defeated the French, plans which sparked angry protests that led to the event's cancellation because of security concerns.

A group of artists then followed up with plans to read 140 poems and historical documents – an event dubbed Moulin à paroles, or "chatterbox."

The 24-hour performance is slated to take place this Saturday and Sunday in Quebec City.

FLQ Manifesto is part of Canada's history, says Bloc

Quebec entertainers, artists and politicians are expected to take part in the event, including ex-premier Bernard Landry and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe.

The planned readings include the manifesto of the terrorist group behind a string of bombings and hostage-takings in support of Quebec independence in 1970, a period known as the October Crisis.

The manifesto was first read on the CBC French-language service as a condition for the release of British trade official James Cross. The other high-profile hostage, Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, was killed.

Federal politicians and the Quebec government have disassociated themselves from the event and accuse organizers of being apologists for terrorism.

Sovereigntist politicians and event organizers countered that the accusation is nonsense.

Duceppe said the manifesto is part of Canadian history – like it or not.

"The FLQ manifesto was read last year at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa," Duceppe said before a Bloc caucus meeting in Quebec City Tuesday.

"There will be texts from Lord Durham that will be read – that doesn't mean we're okay with that."

Durham is a loathed figure in Quebec history for his idea of merging Upper and Lower Canada into one colony to extinguish the French language and culture through assimilation.

Supporters note that the event will feature a wide range of texts – from the Canadian national anthem to works by Leonard Cohen and prominent Quebec poets.