Valerie Luchak

The condition of tension and ambivalence has been essential to Quebec identity, and the tension inextricable from this is invariably related to a narrative of survival and fear of assimilation into an Anglophone majority. The 1837-38 rebellions of Lower Canada are paramount in this Quebecois narrative. This paper undertakes a case study of the From Rebellions to Confederation module at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) in Gatineau, Quebec, and puts forth the argument that while the module invokes conflict and tension, the rebellions are framed as a political struggle for democracy within a wider national narrative of Canadian national development, where the genius of confederation is expressed as the climatic achievement of a compromise following three decades of political upheaval. Democratic reform and national partnership are celebrated, while the Lower and Upper Canadian rebellions are equated, obscuring the cultural legacy and specificity of the Lower Canadian rebellions thereby excluding the tensions fundamental to Quebec Identity. The module also disconnects confederation from its many other controversies. The CMC thus confirms itself as a function of nation-state power as it fails to represent a fundamental conflict in favour of a homogenizing narrative.

Selon Jocelyn Létourneau, afin de comprendre l‘identité québécoise dans toute sa complexité, il faut accepter ses composantes essentielles : tension et ambivalence. La tension inextricable de cette condition est invariablement liée à une histoire de survivance et de peur de l‘assimilation par la majorité anglophone et à des solidarités émergentes. Les rébellions de 1837-38 prédominent dans ce récit national québécois. Cet article effectue une analyse du module Des rébellions à la confédération au Musée canadien des civilisations (MCC) à Gatineau, Québec. Nourri aux réflexions de Jocelyn Létourneau, cet article montre que tout en évoquant des conflits et des tensions, le module du MCC présente les rébellions comme une lutte politique pour la démocratie à l‘intérieur d‘un plus grand récit national canadien, dont la Confédération canadienne serait l‘apogée, après de trois décennies de bouleversements politiques. La négation d‘une spécificité historique bas-canadienne constitue une exclusion de la notion de tensions fondamentales à l‘identité canadienne. En dissociant la Confédération des multiples controverses qui l‘ont précédée, le MCC choisit de représenter les rébellions comme faisant partie d‘un récit historique homogène et pacifiant.

Valerie completed her Bachelor of Arts with combined honours in sociology and human rights at Carleton University in 2008, and was thrilled to return to Carleton this year to begin her Master of Arts in Canadian Studies. Having lived in Ottawa nearly all her life, she has become quite attune to the power-laden public memories of a national capital region straddling the provincial borders of Quebec and Ontario, and as a bilingual Canadian, she is eager to investigate the still-palpable cultural tensions of the French-English intersection. The Cultural Studies program area has fostered her fervent interest in memory, re-presentation, power and identity, particularly as it relates to traumatic memory within Quebecois narratives of cultural survival. It is Valerie’s hope to contribute to the critical analysis of the Quebecois voice in official narratives of the Canadian nation, and to encourage fluid concepts of national identity within public memory.


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