ST-PAUL-L'ILE-AUX-NOIX, Que. -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his first official visit to Quebec following the election of its pro-independence government and used it to deliver the message that English and French Canada are inextricably linked by history.
Harper visited an island near the U.S. border Friday to announce a new military tribute in honour of the War of 1812, in a pomp-laden event replete with a military inspection and brass band.
He cited examples from that war to illustrate the idea that English and French Canada share a historical bond. His visit came one week after the election of a Parti Québécois government that hopes to sever some links between Quebec and the federal government.
Harper came to Fort Lennox, located on an island on the Richelieu River, and lauded military regiments that successfully defended Canada in the War of 1812. He said battle honours will be awarded to regiments with ties to units that won decisive battles in the war.
One night-time attack was launched against Canadian positions along the nearby Lacolle River in November 1812. It involved an invasion force of some 5,000 American military regulars. Harper said in a statement that Canada's victory was "a pivotal point in the development of our great country."
"During this war French, English and aboriginal people took up arms and rallied around a common objective: resisting the American invasion," he said.
"These bonds created by our ancestors are at the origin of a truly pan-Canadian identity that made possible our Confederation, and led to a country of great diversity with two official languages."
-- The Canadian Press