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My blood flows with maple syrup

I have roots that run deep with Canadian history.

Some would say my veins flow with maple syrup, or they find it cute when I pronounce words like “zed” instead of “zee.”

It all started for me in the 1500s with the birth of the fur trade. The Huron Indians dominated their enemies with muskets and gun powder they received in trade for beaver skins. They also enjoyed European pots, pans, beads and let’s not forget fire water. Suddenly, beaver skin fashions were showing up all over Europe.

England wanted a piece of the action, so they sent over shiploads of explorers, settlers and supplies. The French were not pleased. In order to even things up, the Brits supplied the Algonquin Indians with weapons to help them fight off the Hurons, who were not only killing the Algonquin but the British, as well. Even though the fur trade lasted over 300 years, those centuries were wrought with wars harsh living conditions were the norm. Only the strong survived.

The territory was eventually split in two, Upper Canada (British) and Lower Canada (French). But the unrest continued. Something had to give, and it was going to be a winner-takes-all contest.

The French and Indian war, also known as the Seven Year War, began in 1756 and the tides turned in England’s favor during the Battle of Quebec (known as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham). A peace treaty was signed in 1763, uniting two splintered territories into the Dominion of Canada.

Fast forward 300 years and you will find me, a naive kid (with British roots) living in Montreal. As I entered my teens I was keenly tuned into the unrest that surrounded me (and all of Quebec). Apparently the French were still unhappy about the Plains of Abraham defeat.

Whispers of unrest could be heard from within the shadows. This led to the birth of the FLQ (Front de Liberation du Quebec or the Quebec Liberation Front). These were terrorist who were brainwashed by the propaganda fed to them from sources such as French university professors.

These separatist were focused on one thing, boosting awareness of the French culture while eroding the English majority across the entire country. The ultimate goal was to have Quebec separate from Canada, and they almost succeeded. Referendums were added to the election ballots, leaving it up to the people to decide.

During the FLQ Crisis of 1970, these young separatists disrupted society by placing bombs in mailboxes in English neighborhoods. They kidnapped the provincial Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte and a British diplomat named James Cross. Pierre Laporte was assassinated in October 1970, and James Cross was eventually liberated after two months of round-the-clock negotiations. The entire province of Quebec was thrust into chaos. The War Measures Act was authorized by my hero, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (the father of today’s prime minister).

My peaceful English neighborhood, Notre Dame de Grace (N.D.G.), was patrolled by Army tanks, and all of the police stations were converted into military command centers. I was very impressed. In retrospect, I was kind of foolish riding my bicycle in and out of moving army tanks. As a 14-year-old kid, I displayed my bravery by ignoring the soldiers commands to “Stay clear of the tanks.”

What are they going to do, shoot me?

Richard Hunter lives in Jacksonville.


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