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Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Establishment of Samuel de Champlain in Quebec

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, 2008 marks the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain's settlement in Quebec City in 1608, and as such, is an opportunity to commemorate the French fact in America, and particularly in Canada.

One fundamental duty of the Senate is to reflect the rights of linguistic minorities throughout the country, and we must develop original initiatives to highlight this unique, historic event in our own way. This concern began with the Speaker of the Senate, our colleague, Noël Kinsella, and was shared by all the francophone senators and many of our anglophone colleagues.

On the invitation of the president of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, Senator Lise Bacon, and the Canada-France Interparliamentary Friendship Group, presided over by French Senator Marcel-Pierre Cléach, senators attended an initial meeting held in the French Senate in Paris, at the Palais du Luxembourg, on March 7 and 8, 2008.


The theme of that symposium was The Legacy of France in Canada over 400 Years. The event was sponsored by Their Excellencies, the French Ambassador to Canada, François Delattre, and the Canadian Ambassador to France, Marc Lortie. Those in attendance included the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, the former Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, and her husband, John Ralston Saul, who delivered the opening address.

Senator Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former prime minister of France, delivered the closing remarks before an audience of nearly 200 invited guests, all friends of Canada, at the elegant headquarters of the Institut France-Amériques.

The Speaker of the Senate also wanted to commemorate this anniversary by leaving a legacy for future generations. Together with a delegation of senators representing Acadia and Quebec, the Speaker of the Senate made an official visit to France from May 16 to 21, 2008, as Speaker himself reported during yesterday afternoon's sitting of the Senate.

Then, accompanied by a delegation of senators, the Speaker visited Quebec's National Assembly on May 26, 2008. During an official ceremony, he presented a bronze bust of Samuel de Champlain by the great Canadian sculptor, Alfred Laliberté. An information brochure was published, and last summer, the bust was the main attraction at a Champlain exhibition in the foyer of Quebec's National Assembly.

Lastly, on November 14 and 15, the Speaker of the Senate hosted the second part of the Canada-France symposium here in the Senate Chamber. This time, the opening address was delivered by the Honourable Michel Bastarache, former justice of the Supreme Court. Guest speakers at the closing luncheon were Senator Kinsella and Alain Juppé, Mayor of Bordeaux and former prime minister of France.

Prior to that, we had launched the book France-Canada-Québec: 400 ans de relations d'exception, published by the Presses de l'Université de Montréal, which I had the honour of co-editing with professor and historian Paul-André Linteau. Contributors to the book include 12 historians, six of them French and six Canadian, selected from renowned universities on either side of the Atlantic.

Thus, the Senate commemorated this anniversary year by highlighting the remarkable success of the Franco-Canadian friendship over the past 400 years. If Canada is a model society, this is at least partially due to France's constant influence since 1604 and 1608. History will remember the Senate's completely original contribution, as it was the only house of Parliament to expressly commemorate the festivities marking the 400th anniversary of Quebec City and the French fact in Canada.