McCartney urges Quebec to 'smoke the pipes of peace'

Sir Paul McCartney was expected to find the appropriate French translation for "Let it be" last night while headlining an outdoor concert in Quebec, in the hope of finally disarming francophone indignation over his invitation to help the province celebrate its 400th anniversary.

To the consternation of Sir Paul (and the rest of Canada), preparations for tonight's concert at Battlefields Park outside old Quebec City, billed as the highlight of the anniversary celebrations, were marred by protests led by a group of 30 francophone politicians and artists.

Sensitivities about its place in Canada and its French-speaking heritage never seem to die in Quebec. But the concert brouhaha prompted the former Beatle to suggest in an interview with Canadian radio that it was time to "smoke the pipes of peace and to just put away your hatchets". There was never any question of his pulling out and fans began queueing for last night's event on Saturday. It was not Sir Paul, after all, who chose the venue.

The celebrations mark the 1608 sailing of the French explorer Samuel de Champlain up the river St Lawrence to the rocky promontory where he and 30 others founded Quebec. But it was at the Plains of Abraham (now Battlefields Park) that in 1759, General James Wolfe defeated General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm to seize "New France" for Britain.

Nearly 250 years later, the ousting of the French lily by the English rose remains the moment that fuels the French separatism that still lingers in bilingual Quebec. It is the sentiment that informs the province's motto, carried still on car numberplates– "Je Me Souviens" ("I haven't forgotten").

Luc Archambault, a Quebec City artist, was joined by the other prominent city figures associated with the separatist movement, including two MPs, in writing an open letter to Sir Paul. "The presence of your English-language music on the most majestic part of Battlefields Park, as beautiful as it might be, can't help but bring back painful memories of our conquest," it began. Mr Archambault pleaded with Sir Paul to show as much respect to the "people of French Quebec" as he has to baby seals in the years when he has travelled to eastern Canada.

Sir Paul responded: "I'm very friendly with the French people that I know. I know people of all nationalities. Hey, I'm friendly with German people. By that argument I should never go to Germany or they should never come over here ]to the UK]".

In an editorial yesterday, The Toronto Star referred disparagingly to the "hysteria" whipped up by those objecting to Sir Paul performing in Quebec. "It's hard to fathom the ageing British rocker as imperialism personified," the paper said before adding: "Comparing supposedly downtrodden Quebecois to battered baby seals is certainly novel."

It was a grey-haired demographic surging into Battlefield Park yesterday. "This isn't just a concert," said Kurt Levins, from Edmonton. "This is more like a religious experience for me. " The only French he wanted to hear were the opening lines of "Michelle, Ma Belle".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test