Wanted: real history -- not revisionism

Year 2000 marks a special event in the Pontiac. This year is Quyon’s 125th anniversary; in fact, it’s also the anniversary of the creation of North and South Onslow.

To mark this occasion, many special events have been planned for what has also been dubbed “Homecoming Week” from July 3 to 9th.

A fitting start was the extremely well-attended Fashion Show organized by the efficient team of Kathy Armitage, Helen Lapierre and Elizabeth Young. This crew galvanized the Onslows and Quyon communities, encouraging many residents to participate by donating such items as their wedding dresses to the function. And many other residents of all ages honored the memory of their parents and grandparents by modeling these wonderful, memorable outfits.

Many family names were reflected, of several nationalities and origins: French and English, like other peoples, obviously intermarried, for love.

And that diversity and pride is the beauty of our region, our province, and our nation, don’t you agree? Canadians, Quebecers and Pontiac residents all share a multiplicity of origins that adds a rich diversity to our common heritage.

But it isn’t just Quyon that’s celebrating a notable anniversary.

So is Hull. It was in 1800 that Philemon Wright and his group of settlers from Woburn, Massachusetts arrived on the north shore of the Ottawa River, to found Hull. Year 2000 marks our neighbour’s 200th anniversary.

And that’s where some alleged revisionism enters the picture.

A CBC radio broadcast of last week mentioned that Outaouais Alliance has made a formal complaint. Apparently, some actors were preparing to stage a celebration of the history of Hull -- in Hull -- as part of the 200th anniversary celebrations. But complications apparently arose because members of the cast were allegedly asked to sign contracts in which they had to promise not to mention the name of Philemon Wright, the city founder.

Now, I don’t have all the facts at my fingertips here as I write this column on the holiday weekend, so I must apologize. But surely any attempt to change or obscure the past is totally inexcusable and inappropriate -- particularly for reasons of “political correctness.” Only the truth is acceptable.

As a people, Quebecers and Canadians -- including Pontiac residents, of course -- must learn factual details concerning our history. We need to know our past, so that we can interpret the present and carve ourselves a future founded upon solid foundations born from truth, honesty and compassion.

For without these, where is civilized society?

Anyone can make a mistake. But deliberate suppression of the truth is hardly a “mistake.”

It is important for us to be able to truly celebrate our differences, our commonalties, our challenges, our dreams -- and even our disappointments, too. This humanizes us and helps us realize that although we may be from different lands and may speak different languages, we have much in common to share, good and bad, as ordinary human beings.

So it should be of historical interest to us all that the great French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, paddled up the Ottawa River past Pontiac in 1613. It should be of interest that French speaking settler Joseph Mondion was the first known European to homestead here, near Quyon, in 1786. It should be a source of pride that Germans settled Ladysmith (and why we now celebrate Octoberfest in that village every year). And it should be of interest to us that Philemon Wright not only settled Hull in 1800, but owned some 12,000 acres here in Pontiac, too.

You get the drift: from our diverse backgrounds, we grow together in tolerance and understanding. We learn our history from one another, and so understand our present.

Honestly, in this day and age -- and especially in a free country like Canada -- it seems preposterous that some still fret about race to the extent that names are banished. Surely what is important are the human qualities of an individual. Isn’t this what we care about, more than whether a person is of First Nations, French, Irish, Dutch, Polish, Lithuanian, English, Burmese -- or whatever -- origin?

This Canada Day, in millennium year 2000, should be the time where we reflect upon what is truly relevant in our lives as Canadians. It is an opportunity to start afresh, to celebrate the power and strength of our collective differences. The warp and weft of our different pasts weave an immensely strong fabric into the tapestry we call Canada, a country among those that are the envy of the world.

Within this tapestry, we find communities like our Pontiac and we find a province we call Québec. And, just like one of the Quyon or North and South Onslow ladies’ patchwork quilts, the communities and provinces create a nation we call Canada.

Revisionism is inappropriate in this tapestry. We may not like the truth -- but like it or not, real understanding of our selves is born precisely of truth.

If the CBC report was correct, then shame on whoever forced the actors to sign a contract that banned mentioning the true founder of Hull. What a way to celebrate a 200th birthday.

And what a way to launch an environment of respect and understanding in the new millennium.

If this is what really happened in Hull last week, I think the city ought to hire the actors again, to stage a true depiction of the history of Hull, don’t you?


Special note: There are many great events happening during Quyon’s Homecoming Week July 3-9, so be sure to attend something that catches your interest. Volunteers have worked long and hard to create diverse, stimulating events that will allow you to mix and mingle with your Pontiac friends. Whether it’s the street dance, pancake breakfast, or whatever, come celebrate. Look for details in this edition of The Equity.

*** Clarification: Yes, even though they were cancelled last week, the two historical bus tours of Quyon and the Onslows ARE going ahead on July 9 as part of the Quyon 125th celebrations. Call Eric Fletcher at 458-2090 to reserve a seat on the school bus. If you get the answering machine please leave your name clearly with the number of people for whom you are booking AND the bus time you want. Leave your telephone number, too. Choose from two departures: at 1:00 and 3:00 from the Lion’s Hall (Beach Barn) near the Quyon ferry docks. Otherwise, first come, first served.


Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer based north of Quyon.