Today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement on the 400th anniversary of Québec City:
Rare are the North-American cities that can celebrate such a glorious past. 1608 is a historical date for you, for the province of Quebec and for all of Canada, because July 3rd, 1608, exactly 400 years ago today, really marks the beginning of what we have become today.
Fellow Canadians, I may have grown up in Toronto, I may have decided to live in Calgary with my family, and I may work in Ottawa, but they say all Canadians must have two cities in his or her heart: their own, and Québec City. Because it’s the most beautiful city of Canada, the most charming – a city that radiates ‘joie de vivre.’
When he arrived, Samuel de Champlain was welcomed by the Aboriginal people who lived here and he formed an alliance with them. The name of the city was born from this alliance: Québec means ’strait’ and refers to the mouth of the St. Lawrence.
Isn’t it wonderful that our great country, Canada, was also named by our First Peoples? Canada meant ‘village’ – this village.
After founding Québec City, Champlain made a dozen expeditions in Canada, explored the coasts and rivers of our country – Acadia, the St. Lawrence Valley and Georgian Bay. He and his companions saw a big future!
The seeds planted here 400 years ago today have blossomed into a magnificent city, a strong and proud Québecois nation, and a great Canadian country, strong and free. What an amazing legacy!
I tell people across this country, Samuel de Champlain was not just the founder of this city - his name is engraved at Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General, as the first in the long line of governors of Canada. This heritage belongs to all of Canadians and we should all be proud of what Champlain and those who followed him have left us: our most beautiful Québec City, at the mouth of the mighty St. Lawrence, a French-speaking nation, the Québécois, in the heart of our continent, and a peaceful and prosperous country, Canada, admired around the world.
It belongs not only to Champlain and his companions, but also to the pioneers who believed in his dream of a New France, and who overcame the terrible hardships of the early years, to the sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of the original habitants, who kept their language, their traditions and their institutions, their values and their identity, vibrant and alive to this day. These heirs of the great Champlain have created in North America a bastion of French language that is renowned in the world.
These four centuries of perseverance and determination were crowned on November 22, 2006, another historic date, when MPs from every region of our great country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic, recognized that the Québécois and the Québécoises form a nation within a united Canada.
They said yes to a fundamental truth about Canada and it is because of this irrefutable historical fact that our country is so unique and flourishing today.
This is what defines Canada, a country born in French, with two national languages spoken all over the world, and a nation rich in opportunities where everybody, regardless their ethnic origin or their religion, work, live and succeed together.
Forever, Québec City will have a place in their hearts, a place that will charm them eternally. And our Canada, with the Quebecois nation in its heart, will look at our common future with confidence.
Bonne fête Québec!"