CALGARY — A bronze statue of Gen. James Wolfe found a new home in a Calgary park Sunday as crowds gathered to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the battle of the Plains of Abraham, an event that marked a "uniquely Canadian" approach to nation-building.
"That battle was 250 years ago and many good things have happened since then," said Britton Mockridge, commanding officer of the 78th Fraser Highlanders, the group that planned the event at South Mount Royal Park...
..Three wreaths were laid at the foot of the Wolfe statue, one for the fallen French, another for the British who died in the battle, and the last for "all those who thereafter died for us," said Mockridge.
Addressing the crowds of Calgarians and dignitaries gathered in the park Sunday, Mockridge called on Canadians to put aside controversy that is still often associated with the battle, in which the English defeated the French.
Provinces away, in Quebec, where the battle took place generations ago, the controversy lingered at anniversary celebrations.
After the initial re-enactment event planned to commemorate the epic battle was cancelled amid separatist protests, a group of artists came up with plans to read 140 poems and historical documents — including the controversial FLQ manifesto — at an event called Moulin a paroles.
In Quebec, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe on Sunday downplayed the shouting of the FLQ's "Nous vaincrons!" battle cry at the 24-hour reading of texts drawn from Quebec's history.
"There are people who shout that, just as there could be people who shout stupid things in Sault Ste. Marie (Ont.)," Duceppe told reporters, after his own reading of a 1990 text by Quebec's late Liberal premier Robert Bourassa.
In Calgary, visitors at the Mount Royal Park said they were drawn to the anniversary celebration to commemorate the battle and to pay tribute to the British general, Wolfe.
"It's the history of Canada, it's pretty important," said Nicola Dahlin, who brought children Jonah, 7, Aurelia, 4, and Zara, 2, to the event.
Clutching a miniature Union Jack flag, Dennis Merrett, 80, said he attended the ceremony with his wife, Ailsa, since he feels a connection to his "ancestral neighbour."
Growing up in London, Merrett lived about 275 metres from the famous general's boyhood home in Greenwich Park. A statue similar to the one installed in the Mount Royal Park still overlooks London's Thames River, said Merrett.
"I feel he symbolizes Canada," said Merrett, who moved to Calgary in the 1950s.
The statue of Wolfe had several other homes before settling in the Calgary park.
For years, it stood in front of the Astor Building on Lower Broadway in New York City before it was purchased by Eric Harvie of Calgary for his private collection. Harvie later donated the statue to the city in honour of Canada's centennial in 1967. For the past eight years, the statue had been stored in a crate until Calgarian Robert Montgomery helped track it down.
"There, he was covered in cobwebs where he'd been lying for the last eight years," said Montgomery, who helped spearhead the movement to restore the statue and donated funds for the statue plinth.
Officials worked to have the statue installed in the Calgary park in time for the 250th anniversary of the Plains of Abraham battle.
Calgary Herald with files from Canwest News Service