Anniversary of the 1837-38 Rebellion
Quebec Patriots’ Day, May 24, 2021
Nation-Building Project of Quebec Patriots
National Patriots’ Day marks the 1837-1838 uprising to honour the memory of the Patriots who gave their lives or were forced into exile in the struggle to end British colonial rule by establishing a Republic of Quebec.
Patriots’ Day celebrates the striving of the people to affirm their right to be. Beginning in the spring of 1837, when the British Crown formally rejected the demands of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada included in the 92 Resolutions of 1834, numerous mass meetings broke out across Quebec where the people spoke and demanded their democratic rights.
In the midst of this affirmation of the people’s will, the Patriots proclaimed “by order of the provisional government” an important manifesto called “Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Lower Canada.” In it they declared the principles and democratic rights of a Republic. Section 3 of the declaration calls for the defence of the rights of all: “Under the free government of Lower Canada, all individuals will enjoy the same rights: the natives will no longer be submitted to any civil disqualification and will enjoy the same rights as all other citizens of Lower Canada.” Section 15 proclaims that the people will author their own constitution: “At the earliest occasion the people must choose delegates according to the present division of the country in counties, cities and boroughs who will form a convention or legislative body to draft a constitution according to the needs of the country, in accordance with the provisions of this Declaration, subject to modification according to the will of the people.”
The 1837-38 uprising was crushed through brutal force, including the suspension of habeas corpus, mass arrests, burning of homes, the hanging of 12 patriots and forcing of 64 others into exile. More than 1,700 were imprisoned following the suspension of habeas corpus. In Montreal alone in 1838, 816 people were arrested out of a population of 30,000, which translates into 40,000 people out of Montreal’s present-day population. Of that number, 108 were court-martialled. Hundreds were forced to flee to the U.S. to escape arrest, including 10 accused of “murder” who faced the death penalty if they ever returned. It marked the suppression of a modern Quebec nation-state whose existence has been denied ever since by depriving the Quebec people, irrespective of their national origin, language or creed, of their right to self-determination as an independent legal entity with the right to form a free and equal union with the rest of Canada if they so decide of their own free will.
The 1837-38 Patriots’ Uprising is an important event in the history of Quebec and Canada whose significance must be grasped in order to understand the present-day situation and not be mislead by the blackmail of those establishment forces which claim that affirming Quebec’s sovereignty will lead to the “destruction of Canada.” On the contrary, the establishment of the modern state of Quebec remains necessary to settle the constitutional crisis in a manner which favours the people by ending the stranglehold of the institutions established out of the suppression of the nation-building project the Patriots put forward in 1837-1838. These are the present democratic institutions based on “reasonable accommodations,” the arrangements the British oligarchs found “reasonable” to strengthen British colonial rule after the English defeated the French at the Plains of Abraham in 1759 and Quebec passed from being a French colony to an English colony. The British divided the people on an ethnocultural basis and enshrined this division in the Act of Union of 1840. Ever since then, the line of divide and rule has served first the British and then the Canadian state to impose the dictate of the ruling elite on both the Quebec and the Canadian peoples as well as the First Nations. It is clear that after the rebellion of 1837-1838, all those patriots who refused to conciliate with these so-called reasonable accommodations were either hung or exiled and with this infamous act, the present democratic institutions of so-called responsible government came into being to keep the people out of the power-sharing arrangements.
The present situation shows that the cause for which the Patriots fought in 1837-1838 today takes the form of the need for the working class to constitute itself the nation and vest sovereignty in the people to make them the decision-makers in all political, economic, social and cultural affairs that concern them and their nation. This need is all the more urgent as the governments of Quebec and Canada intensify the sell-out of the natural and human resources and establish new arrangements to facilitate the political, economic and military annexation of Canada and Quebec to the United States of North American Monopolies and restructure the state in the service of the most powerful monopolies as part of U.S. empire-building. The more they refuse to share power with anyone, the more they talk of “reasonable accommodations.”
As a result of this nation-wrecking agenda, the ruling elites have mired Quebec and Canada in an unprecedented constitutional and political crisis. Their refusal to open society’s path to progress is seen in increasing attempts to push politics of division based on language, national origin, culture, belief, colour of skin, gender or any other consideration. The people are witnessing the daily spectacle of political factions challenging each other as to who will best represent Quebec values, or reducing the identity of the Quebec people to a linguistic issue, or dividing the people on an ethnocultural basis so as to get away with imposing a new “reasonable accommodation” to suppress their right to be and determine for themselves the kind of arrangements they require to flourish.
On this occasion, CPC(M-L) salutes all those who espouse the cause of the Quebec Patriots, especially those who are determined to elaborate a nation-building project consistent with the demands of the times.
Let the Working Class Constitute the Nation and Vest Sovereignty in the People!
Sovereignty Yes! Annexation No!