Canada Day celebrations … in 1977

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Photo: Ville de Québec N014836

This replica of Jacques Cartier’s Grande Hermine, built for Montreal’s Expo 67, was later moved to Parc Cartier-Brébeuf in Quebec City, where Cartier and his crew spent the winter of 1535-36. The replica remained there for at least three decades before it was broken up and removed.

I would like to mention that my Mom, Jo Ouellet, started the Canada Day activities here in Quebec City in the late 1970s.

In response to the Parti Québécois winning the Nov. 15, 1976 election, many Quebecers were stunned by the prospect of separating from Canada. René Lévesque’s goal was clear, and the pro-Canada crowd was in hiding, afraid of repercussions.

Jo would not let the separatists intimidate or run over us. So, in 1978 she organized a posse of various business friends, with all meetings held in our dining room. She conducted press conferences (PR was her business). On July 1 of that year, she got Ralph Noseworthy of CTV and others to cover events organized at the Parc Cartier-Brébeuf, where a replica of Jacques Cartier’s ship, the Grande Hermine, was on display; very fitting as in 1534 Cartier claimed what is now known as Canada for France by planting a cross in Gaspé.

A few families came out, perhaps a few hundred people turned up, but it received great CTV coverage.

During the following year, Mom became friends with the military brass at CFB Valcartier, and for Canada Day managed to get the Snowbirds to do a flypast. Very impressive! She also got the Royal 22e Régiment band to march down Rue Saint-Louis to the Hôtel de Ville where the Canadian flag was raised, then to Dufferin Terrace. And, she got the Château Frontenac to hop on board, hence the giant Canada Day cake that has since become an annual tradition. She even managed to organize a swearing-in ceremony for new Canadian citizens at the Château. Family activities were held on the Plains of Abraham.

In subsequent years, huge nighttime parades came down Grande Allée. Big crowds turned out to these events, growing in number every year to what they are today.