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Weaponizing History

Updated: May 15

The future National Museum of Quebec History.

Samuel de Champlain - The Wendat and Algonquin armies accompanied by Champlain, take the battle to the Onondaga villages in 1609. Wikimedia.

ON Thursday. May 9, 2024, Quebec Premier François Legault stood at a podium to declare that Quebec's history begins in 1608 with Samuel de Champlain. He declared that will be the history spotlighted in the new National Museum of Quebec History (Musée national de l’histoire du Québec) to be built in Québec City. In 2022, Legault had already declared: It’s important that we don’t put all cultures on the same level, we have one culture, Quebec culture. The Premier will now use public funds to spread his poisonous hegemony.

His statements on history are laughable for their sheer ignorance and his plan to use the new museum as a vehicle for propaganda is obscene.

With his recent announcement, Legault blatantly declares that he governs only for his Quebecers but not for all Quebecers.

The fun house.

THE Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) were the first to respond with outrage, issuing a statement to “remind the Quebec government that Quebec’s history began long before the arrival of Europeans on the territory. [...] By excluding the First Peoples from Quebec’s history in the design of the future Musée national, the premier and historians are implicitly contributing to the systematic erasure of our common past.

The Premier's announcement is an absolute betrayal of the agreements forged between First Nations and past Quebec Premiers. Any museum of history built with public funds that excludes the history of its First Nations becomes nothing more than a Museum of Propaganda - a fun house of smoke and mirrors.

The REAL history of Quebec

THE name “Quebec” comes from the Algonquin word for “narrow passage” or “strait.[1] The name defines the Capital City in this territory. The millennia-long history of the territory begins with the eleven First Nations occupying the territory: Abenaki, Algonquin, Attikamekw, Cree, Huron-Wendat, Mohawk, Malecites, Innus, Mi'qmaq and Naskapi. These Indigenous people are still living in this territory, shaping the fabric of the land. Among the first stories told here is that of the people of the Strait. Even the most ardent Quebec nationalists glowingly tell the story of how "their people" first came to the place where the river narrows to make alliances with the First Nations to build their settlement.

Yet, Legault blithely announces how the new museum will feature the name Quebec prominently, all the while ignoring the greatest part of its history.

It should be noted that no sooner had Champlain arrived in Quebec territory, did he choose sides in the long struggle between the Haudenosaunee people and the Algonquin-Wendat alliance, bringing an arquebus [2] to a knife-fight. The Haudenosaunee never stood a chance after Champlain changed the balance of power for almost two centuries. If Quebec history "begins with Champlain" as Legault believes, how will the story be told in his museum? I doubt that this part of Champlain's story will be featured in the new museum, adding insult to injury to some First Nations.

So, it should be obvious to anyone who actually knows something about history that the only appropriate name for Legault's museum that begins with Champlain's arrival is the National Museum of the History of New France (Musée national de l’histoire de la Nouvelle-France), minus Champlain's uncomfortable Indigenous encounter in 1609. New France is a place that existed for only 151 years (... and ended 265 years ago). The settler history of Quebec's Outaouais Region alone, like at least two other regions of Quebec, [3] has been in existence much longer than that - 224 years - and was founded and populated by Anglophones. In the words of Ricky Ricardo, Legault's "gonna have some 'splaynin to do!"

"History is written by historians, not the victors"

THERE'S a famous line of unknown origin sometimes misattributed to Winston Churchill: “History is written by the victors.” It's been repeated so many times over the years that many of us just accept it as a truism. Certainly it has a plausible sounding logic to it.[4]

Hopefully, before this museum is built, reason will prevail. As well, there will be elections to come. Legitimate historians will speak out to prevent Quebec's new museum from becoming an insipid hall of mirrors that reflects only a chauvinist nationalist narrative, however, historians will not be the ones running for office. Hopefully their voices will be heard.


[1] Origin of the names of Canada and its provinces and territories, Government of Canada. Click here for more.

[2] Any of several small-caliber long guns operated by a matchlock or wheel-lock mechanism, dating from about 1400, as seen in the blog's feature image. Click here for more.

[3] The Lower North Shore settlements were founded by English-speaking Bretons and Jerseymen, and the Eastern Township settlements, like those of the Outaouais were founded by New-Englanders.

[4] History Is Written by Historians, Not Victors, article by Johan Pregmo, Click here for article.

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1 Comment

Nan Lowe
Nan Lowe
May 14

unfortunately people have short memories and many didn't pay attention in history classes. very few are willing to explore beyond what they are presented with on plaques to get to the facts. I am saddened that Quebecer has come to mean "francophpones who arrived after Champlain"

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