Montréal,  6 nov. - 19 nov. 1999
Numéro 49
  (page 6)
page précédente 
            Vos commentaires           
       Offrez-vous une page de départ digne d'un Québécois ou d'une Québécoise libre. 
 by Ralph Maddocks
          Walking around the streets at this time of year one sees fewer and fewer people wearing poppies. Mainly they are worn by the older men and women who have a closer connection with the events commemorated by this attractive little flower. I often wonder how many of my fellow citizens know where this emblem came from. Occasional inquiries have produced various responses; ranging from a near approximation to the truth to expressions of total ignorance. 
           How many know of the Canadian connection to this small red flower which grows so profusely in the fields of Flanders? It was Colonel John McCrae, a Medical officer with the first Canadian Army contingent who first described The Flanders Poppy as the « Flower of Remembrance ». It was during a lull in the action of the second battle of Ypres in 1915 that he wrote a poem on a scrap of paper torn from his despatch book from which the following is taken: 
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
          The verses were sent anonymously to a British magazine and published under the title « In Flanders' Fields ». In January of 1918, Colonel McCrae perhaps sensing his own impending death quoted the last lines from his own poem to the doctor in charge of his case.  
Tell them this,
If ye break faith with us who die, 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The first Poppy Day 
          It was, however, an American lady, a Miss Moina Michael, who, impressed by that last verse wrote a poem called «The Victory Emblem ». On November 9th 1918, just two days before the Armistice was signed, she was attending a conference of War Secretaries of the YMCA held at her house. She was presented with a small gift of money which she decided to use to buy and sell 25 poppies. The French Secretary, Madame Guérin, had the idea that artificial poppies should be made and sold throughout the world to help ex-servicemen and their dependants in need. The first Poppy Day was held in Britain on November 11th 1921 and a factory, employing five disabled ex-servicemen, started making them there in 1922. The Royal British Legion, like its Canadian counterpart has been distributing them ever since. 
          If you are bored enough to watch the Parliamentary channel on TV you will notice that the members from the rest of Canada seem proud to wear their poppies at this time of the year. You will notice no doubt that the members of the main Quebec party do not, in general, do so. Exactly like most of their provincial counterparts in fact. 
          If one reads the history of Quebec, especially prior to the second World War, a possible explanation emerges for the seeming reluctance of this province's politicians to display this emblem. Many of the politicians and self described elite of that time were actually supportive of the fascist philosophy espoused by Benito Mussolini in Italy, Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany and Francisco Franco in Spain. As a result, many of them viewed the war being conducted against Nazi Germany as not being a righteous war, and participation in it was considered to be service on behalf of a Jewish conspiracy.  
 « We talk and write often about liberty and the many attacks being made upon it. Those whom we honour by wearing the poppy took practical steps to defend it. »
          In 1944, the Bloc populaire candidate in the Cartier riding was asking questions such as; «What right do these people (Jews) have to ask us to get killed, to ruin our country, because they have suffered? » Many more prominent Quebec figures, among them Henri Bourassa, André Laurendeau, Abbé Groulx, Jean Drapeau, Pierre Trudeau, Gérard Pelletier and Camille Laurin were supporters of the Bloc populaire which opposed conscription into the Canadian armed forces. It is very interesting to read their various explanations after the war and the elegant fictions they have since devised to explain away their former views. 
          This breach of good taste on the part of our politicians, particularly those of the separatist persuasion, dishonours the memory of those thousands of brave French and English Canadians from Quebec (who would be Québécois today) and other parts of Canada, who fought and died in two world wars so that many of these same politicians could continue to cling tenaciously to their bizarre and discredited views.  
True and fictitious heroes 
          One might think that a movement which seeks to unite its « pure laine » citizenry would at least seek to honour the memory of those patriotic « pure laine » heroes who gave their lives for freedom and their « pays » about which they pontificate so often. Most movements have their heroes, but this movement seems to consider those who sacrificed themselves for liberty as simply so many sheeps. They prefer leaders or heroes like Dollard Des Ormeaux whose largely fictitious deeds the Abbé Groulx celebrated, and whose memory is now perpetuated each May 24th. Perhaps the advantage of a partially fictitious hero is that you can change the legend to suit the occasion. Throughout the history of Quebec there are references to the search for a leader. We find examples of it from Jean Bruchési's plea for « un chef » in 1926, in André Laurendeau's editorial intercession in 1935 through Maurice Duplessis to today's acclamation, by some, of Lucien Bouchard as the potential « saviour » of Quebec. 
          Immediately after the second world war one can find many of those same prominent names, still members of Quebec's intellectual establishment, cropping up writing letters in defence of the various « immigrants » from Vichy France who were being threatened with deportation. Individuals whose wartime activities as Nazi collaborators and Vichy officials meant that they were not welcome in De Gaulle's France. In fact, many were subsequently sentenced in absentia. Their Quebec supporters who gave them money, food and shelter exercised their political influence in their favour sometimes successfully, sometimes not. In all fairness, it should be pointed out that these escaped criminals must also have had considerable assistance from people in the Federal government.  
          The fact that many of these same people have been largely responsible for creating and manipulating public opinion since those times, perhaps explains why the Quebec population, by and large, no longer bothers to remember the ultimate sacrifices for freedom made on their behalf. We talk and write often about liberty and the many attacks being made upon it. Those whom we honour by wearing the poppy took practical steps to defend it; we should not break faith with them. 
Articles précédents de Ralph Maddocks
page suivante