MONTREAL — Organizers of a spoken-word event planned for the anniversary of the battle of the Plains of Abraham demanded a public apology Saturday from the provincial minister responsible for Quebec’s capital region,
The organizers have taken issue with Sam Hamad over his accusations they are being apologists for terrorism by including reading the Front de liberation du Quebec’s manifesto in their performance.
“When you accuse someone of fomenting violence, it’s serious,” said artistic director Brigitte Haentjens, one of four volunteer planners for the show.
“This team is profoundly insulted by the comments and we’re asking for a public apology.”
On Friday, the Quebec government chastised organizers for including the FLQ document in the 24-hour performance.
“This is far from poetry,” Hamad said on Friday. “The FLQ for me, the memories I have are of assassinations, of bombs.”
He said the government would have nothing to do with the event, to be held Sept. 12-13 on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.
The manifesto is but one of 140 texts — from Canada’s national anthem and works by Mordecai Richler and Leonard Cohen to Quebec poetry, songs and recipes and even aboriginal literature — that will be read aloud during the performance, dubbed ’Moulin a paroles,’ or ’chatterbox’ in English.
Quebec entertainers, artists and politicians are expected to take part, including ex-premier Bernard Landry and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe.
Descendents of the generals in the battle — Britain’s James Wolfe and France’s Louis-Joseph de Montcalm of France — will read letters from their ancestors.
Haentjens also slammed the government for attempting to curb artistic liberty, calling it “a form of censorship.”
“The Moulin is a hundred readers, a hundred voices that will resonate louder than those of the censors,” she told the media at a news conference Saturday.
“This event is a reflection of our history and the manifesto is part of our history. No one from outside will tell us what to include.”
The FLQ, which conducted bombing campaigns and kidnappings in support of Quebec independence, triggered a national panic with the October crisis of 1970.
Its manifesto — a lengthy left-wing screed against the ills of capitalism, sprinkled with several denunciations of English dominance over francophone Quebecers — was read over the airwaves of the CBC French-language service as a condition for the release of kidnapped British trade official James Cross.
But Alexandre Boucher, Hamad’s press secretary, said Saturday that Hamad stood behind his comments and had no plans to issue an apology.
“The minister’s position is clear and hasn’t changed,” he told The Canadian Press.
Haentjens refused to drop the tract from the schedule despite the fact the event will likely lose the government subsidies organizers had applied for.
This is only the latest controversy surrounding the anniversary of the historic Plains battle.
The show marking the 250th anniversary was meant to replace a planned re-enactment that was cancelled by federal officials, who cited protests and security concerns.