Snow swirled furiously around the fortified walls of Quebec on that fateful night. It was New Year’s Eve – December 31, 1775 – and the Red Coats who defended the city were on the lookout for American troops. They knew the Americans were out there somewhere – the city of Montreal had already fallen to the Americans only a month earlier. But for now, the British troops in the citadel of Quebec couldn’t see anything beyond the blizzard. And that is exactly why the Americans chose that moment to strike.
Of all the days in the American War for Independence, that snowy New Year’s Eve stands out as a pivotal moment in the overlapping histories of Canada and the United States. If the events of that day had gone differently, Canada as we know it might not exist today.
How poetic that the fate of Canada would yet again be decided on that same field outside the old citadel, the Plains of Abraham. Only sixteen years earlier (1759) this battlefield had seen the final blow in Britain’s conquest of New France. Now, during the American Revolution, it would play host to a new crucial contest. Perhaps we should begin to think of this night as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham II.
To the American mind at the time, it seemed natural that the Quebecois would join their fight against the British Empire. After all, the British Conquest of Quebec was a relatively fresh wound. Since that time, the French-Canadians had lived under the rule of their historic enemy. Quebec would surely jump at the opportunity to throw off the yoke of their British oppressors. Many Americans expected the French-Canadians would greet their army as liberators.
Before the outbreak of war, the Americans wrote a series of letters to Quebec, asking them to join in solidarity against Britain: “The injuries of Boston have roused and associated every colony, from Nova-Scotia to Georgia. Your province is the only link wanting, to complete the bright and strong chain of union.”
Later – during the American occupation of Montreal – the Americans distributed propaganda flyers promising that they were fighting for “your liberty, your honour, and your happiness.”
In hindsight, one wonders how many times that old American pick-up line about being “liberators” has actually worked. It certainly didn’t work on Quebec. Whatever hope the Americans had of convincing the French-Canadians to toss away the Union Jack and join their revolution, such hopes were dashed throughout the winter of 1775-76. Even before the fateful Second Battle of the Plains of Abraham, there were already clear signs that the Quebecois were just not interested in America’s bold advances.
The first challenge was religious. The Quebecois were French-Catholics and the Americans were overwhelmingly Anglo-Protestants. Sure, the British were Anglo-Protestant too, but by the 1770s they had learned a thing or two about how to treat a papist right. They guaranteed Catholic freedom of religion, including the collection of tithes for the church. They also allowed Catholics to hold government positions, which was not allowed in other parts of the British Empire at the time.
By contrast, the American soldiers who marched into Quebec in 1775 had little respect for the Catholic religion. Some American soldiers even desecrated Catholic shrines and churches. The local clergy soon learned to distrust the occupying army, and warned their parishioners to do the same.
The second challenge was logistical. How do you feed a thousand soldiers occupying a foreign city over several hard winter months? You either bring your own food or you take it from locals. The American soldiers seized the supplies they needed, understandably leading to further local resentment.
The British wooing of Quebec at this time was clear from the Quebec Act of 1774. The act dramatically expanded the size of the colony: to the east it included Labrador, and to the west and southwest it covered parts of present-day Ontario, Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. This move benefited Montreal’s fur-trading industry and shut out American ambitions for westward expansion.
The Americans listed the Quebec Act among the “Intolerable Acts” imposed by Britain, alongside acts which put Massachusetts under military rule and allowed the seizing of colonists’ property for British soldiers. The Americans would surely overturn the Quebec Act as soon as they won the war. With both sides’ intentions clear, Quebec’s elites naturally preferred British victory in the war.
That brings us back to New Year’s Eve 1775. The American side was led by two officers, Benedict Arnold (who would later – and infamously – defect to the British) and Richard Montgomery. Their combined force had only about 1,200 troops. The British side numbered about 1,800 and they also had the advantage of heavy artillery and shelter behind the fortified walls of Quebec City.
The American attempt to take the city was a disaster from the start. They launched a two-pronged attack, with Montgomery’s forces attacking the south of the city, and Arnold’s troops attacking the north. The snowstorm at first gave them the element of surprise, but it soon proved to be more trouble than it was worth. Without cover, the Americans’ guns were fully exposed to the snow, which risked dampening their gunpowder. To make up for the poor visibility, some Americans lit lanterns which only made them walking targets.
On the south side, the British noticed the American lanterns. They waited until the Americans were at close range before opening fire. General Montgomery was killed in the barrage, causing many of his men to panic and retreat.
On the north side, Arnold started his assault after the British were already alerted to their presence. Arnold’s troops faced a barrage of musket fire, but they finally managed to enter the city gates. During the breach, Arnold’s leg was hit and he had to fall back. Arnold’s company was quickly taken over by Daniel Morgan, who led them further into the city where they had planned to meet up with Montgomery’s troops. Of course, Montgomery never made it that far, and Morgan’s men were left completely alone. A street fight ensued for several hours, but Morgan’s men were vastly outnumbered and surrounded. They eventually surrendered at 9 a.m. the following morning, and 400 American soldiers were taken prisoner.
Meanwhile in Montreal, American soldiers continued to occupy that city for several more months until British reinforcements sailed down the St. Lawrence in May 1776. Vastly outnumbered, the Americans fled to the south and their Quebec campaign was over.
By the time the Americans launched their surprise attack on the Plains of Abraham, they had already failed to win the hearts and minds of the Quebecois. The British had promised them the moon and won the cooperation of Quebec elites. The Americans’ crushing military defeat during Plains of Abraham II ultimately put a nail in the coffin of their ambitions for Quebec to join the revolution. Although the Americans would go on to win the independence of 13 colonies, Quebec would not be among them.
Most people have never heard of this critical battle, possibly because all sides would rather forget about it. For the Americans, it was an embarrassing early defeat that fits awkwardly with the patriotic narrative of their successful revolution. For the British, the victory was overshadowed by their devastating loss of the 13 Colonies. For Quebecois nationalists who decry Anglo rule, it may be an embarrassment to remember that when faced with the choice to throw off the Union Jack or keep it, Quebec chose to keep it.
Still, the long-term consequences of this battle cannot be overlooked. The fact that the British kept Quebec meant that they would continue to have a strong presence in the heart of North America despite ultimately losing the American War for Independence. From that foothold they could rebuild their English population north of the St. Lawrence and in the Maritimes, starting with the Loyalist Migrations of 1780s. Without that British imperial presence in North America, the state of Canada as we know it simply could not exist today.
And it all took place one snowy night on that little patch of land on the banks of the St. Lawrence. As it did sixteen years earlier, the Plains of Abraham once again determined the fate of empires, nations, and the future of North America.
James Forbes is the Western Heritage Columnist for the Western Standard
Timeline of Kenney’s seesaw COVID-19 protocols
Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier that Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events.
On the heels of new lockdown measures in Alberta, The Western Standard reviews Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s seesaw approach to dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
March 20, 2020 – Four days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Alberta cities including Calgary declared local states of emergency and shut down most non-essential businesses and serviced. Alberta also declared a provincial public state of emergency and closed all schools.
May 13, 2020 – Alberta enters a Stage 1 re-opening plan allowing businesses, like restaurants and retailers, to reopen with social distancing restrictions.
June 12, 2020 – Stage 2 is introduced earlier than expected, allowing theatres, massage therapists and hair salons as well as libraries to open. Alberta’s state of emergency ends after nearly three months.
August 4, 2020 – The province mandates back-to-school mask use for students in grades four to 12.
October 26, 2020 – Alberta introduces a limit of no more than 15 people for social gatherings.
November 12, 2020 – Tighter restrictions are introduced in restaurants and bars, including an earlier last call for alcohol.
November 24, 2020 – The province announces new and even tighter restrictions banning social gatherings, limits attendance numbers in churches and funerals and closes Alberta high schools.
November 25, 2020 – A Facebook post from Kenney states “We decided not to proceed with a lockdown because of the profound damage it would cause to Albertans, thereby deepening the mental health crisis and leaving many to despair. We will not let political pressure or ideological approaches cause indiscriminate damage to people’s lives and livelihoods.”
December 8, 2020 – Despite Kenney’s announcement less than two weeks earlier, the province is plunged into another full lockdown. All indoor and outdoor social gatherings are banned and non-essential businesses are forced to close including restaurants.
January 14, 2021 – Restrictions on outdoor gatherings are eased and personal service businesses, including massage and hair salons, are allowed to reopen.
January 29, 2021 – Premier Jason Kenney announces “The Path Forward” framework, allowing for an incremental easing of restrictions over three stages. Benchmark metrics were set based on hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients and a minimum wait period of three weeks between each phase.
February 8, 2021 – “Step 1” of The Path Forward plan begins with Alberta easing some restrictions on restaurants, kids sports and indoor fitness.
March 1, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 2” phasing in low-intensity fitness classes; however, earlier benchmarks were ignored and the remainder of Phase 2 was delayed until March 8 when libraries, retailers, banquets, etc. were permitted to resume at varied levels of capacity. Sports programs were also allowed to resume with limits on participants and social-distancing measures.
March 22, 2021 – Again ignoring previously-set benchmarks, the province announces, due to a surge in COVID cases brought on by variants of concern, “Step 3” would be paused until COVID patients are under 300 and declining.
April 6, 2021 – Premier Kenney rolls Alberta back to “Step 1” until further notice moving the goalposts yet again, stating restaurants in the province were only allowed to offer outdoor dining service.
April 29, 2021 – Kenney announces targeted heath measures specific to regions where there were higher numbers of COVID cases. Schools in those regions were to switch to online learning, indoor gyms were to close and all indoor sports activity were to be suspended. This would last for two weeks.
May 4, 2021 – New restrictions are announced again province-wide. All schools including post-secondary institutions were moved to online learning, indoor recreation activities were shut down and in-person dining was prohibited as of May 10. In those areas with high case counts, gatherings were limited to 5, retail stores went to 10% capacity, personal care services were closed and outdoor gatherings were limited to immediate family members only.
May 25, 2021 – Students were permitted to return to in-person learning. The next day, Kenney announced he was replacing his “Plan Forward” strategy with the “Open for Summer” plan, based on vaccination progress and hospitalization numbers.
June 18, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 3” would be implemented July 1.
July 1, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta is “Open for Summer” and nearly all remaining public heath orders are lifted including mask mandates, self-isolation requirements, scaled back testing and contact tracing.
July, 2021 – Kenney, while attending a Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast, is recorded saying he swears to God the province is “open for good.”
July 29, 2021 – The province announces major changes to the COVID-19 protocols on testing, self-isolation and contact tracing. Testing would now only be for the symptomatic; self-isolating is no longer mandatory and AHS would stop close-contact contact tracing.
Sept 4, 2021 – Alberta brings back mandatory masking for all indoor public spaces and work places. Restaurants are ordered to end alcohol service at 10 p.m.
Sept 15, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events. As of September 20, restaurants will have to shut their dining rooms and only provide service on their patios or take-out meals until they have a vaccine passport system in place which will then offer them exemptions. The province will also continue a curfew of 10 p.m. for liquor sales. Forced social distancing returns and it will be illegal for unvaccinated people to attend social functions in homes. Vaccinated families can have friends come over from one other vaccinated house to a total of 10 people. Along with other restrictions, mandatory work from home orders are also back in place.
MAKICHUK: TOP SECRET – Meet the real-life James Bonds
“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”
Like James Bond, they cross borders with fake identities and passports.
They operate in small isolated teams and have access to the full array of 007 gadgets designed by the spies’ Q section.
Its members are famed for not always looking like soldiers. Some speak different languages and can pass as foreign nationals.
The standing joke is that they could fit in at an embassy party or a whorehouse in Istanbul.
And just like Bond, they are all highly trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat.
In fact, their training is considered “amazing even by SAS standards.”
But unlike the fictional 007 character, these assets don’t work for MI6, the famed British Secret Intelligence Service.
They are an elite section of the SAS, known as “The Increment.”
According to a report in the UK’s The Sun, the existence of the secret unit, “E Squadron,” was inadvertently confirmed this week when bungling Army top brass leaked the personal details of more than 70 Special Forces troops.
Buried deep in a spreadsheet of 1,200 soldiers’ names, trades and military units was a single reference to “22 SAS E SQN.”
It was the first written proof that the unit exists.
E Squadron is the fifth and newest limb of 22 SAS, the world’s most famous Special Forces regiment, whose motto is Who Dares Wins.
But its work is so secret that its troops are kept apart from the other four Sabre Squadrons, A, B, D and G, at their headquarters in Hereford, the Sun report said.
The squadron’s main task is to work with MI6 on top missions all over the globe.
SAS legend Andy McNab spent three years with the unit from 1991 to 1993, after his patrol in the first Gulf War which he wrote about in his book Bravo Two Zero.
He said the unit — which was hand-picked from the SAS — was “the closest to what James Bond does” of any British secret service.
But almost 30 years after he left, he said his work was still too secret to reveal, the Sun report said.
Another former member, who asked not to be named, said: “We were moving in and out of countries on different passports. Always in civvies, overseas all the time. It was busy.
“It was the James Bond stuff — use your imagination.”
The ex-member added: “You had to be able to blend in. People were picked for their ability to do undercover work.”
While some MI6 officers are firearms trained, it is never to the same level as their counterparts in E Squadron.
The former soldier said: “MI6 and MI5 are always distancing themselves from James Bond, saying they aren’t really like that. It’s true — spies aren’t like James Bond, they’re eggheads. Give them a gun, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.
“E Squadron solves that problem but they do a lot more as well.”
The places where they often have to work, using civilian cover identities, make it impossible to be armed, so they are all trained in deadly hand-to-hand combat, the Sun report said.
SAS author Chris Ryan served with Andy McNab on the 1991 Bravo Two Zero mission, in which a SAS patrol was deployed into Iraq during the first Gulf War to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s war strategy.
Says Ryan: “To be in the Increment is to be the best of the best.”
According to SOFREP.com, The Increment are strictly black ops — deniable missions that would be disavowed by the British government if compromised.
These could include:
- Secret military assistance to foreign powers
- Clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents
- Covert reconnaissance/intelligence gathering
Today E Squadron’s members are drawn from the three Tier One Special Forces units — the SAS, the SBS and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the Sun report said.
The SBS provides specialist frogmen and mini-submersibles which can be used to insert teams undetected on foreign shores.
The SRR, whose soldiers specialize in plain-clothes surveillance operations around the world, provides a large number of women.
The unit was formed out of 14 Intelligence Company, which was known as the Det, and operated undercover in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.
A source said: “Women are often the best at this sort of work. If a group of blokes turns up, it always looks suspicious.
“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”
The Increment’s troops were among the first British soldiers in Afghanistan, ahead of the US invasion in 2001.
They were also involved in the 2011 uprising in Libya which toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Sun said.
A former E Squadron soldier said the unit was heavily involved in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
He said: “E Squadron are military people. They have rules of engagement.
“Is it a licence to kill? It is certainly not carte blanche. But the nature of soldiering means it’s sometimes necessary to take life. Everyone is trained in deadly force.”
Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor.
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the military editor for the Asia Times.
Why does this BC area have the rudest postal code in Canada?
The area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA).
A U.K. online business — apparently with buckets of time on its hands — has researched and unveiled what it calls “Canada’s rudest” postal codes.
Research by Money.co.uk shows the most unusual and awkward postal codes (the wacky Brits called it a “postcode”) in Canada and the UK and looked at the potential it can have on house prices.
As every maple-syrup blooded Canuck knows, Canadian postal codes contain a six-digit string of numbers and letters to create the final outcome, if one ignores the hyphen that splits the codes
Using numeronyms —words where a number is used to form an abbreviation — the Brits discovered some odd pairings.
For example, in Timmins, Ont. you’ll find the postcode P4N-1C5. Nothing too eye-popping there until you dissolve the hyphen and are left with P4N1C5 (PANICS).
M4X1M5 (MAXIM) is more associated with a mens’ mag, not a vibrant area of downtown Toronto.
In another example, one area of Winnipeg sports the R3L1C5 (RELICS) code.
However, the area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA).
The Brit release noted with the average Canadian house price currently around $716,828, living in a postcode such as V4G1N4 may actually effect your house price. However, no proof of the claim was offered.
Here are the top 21 most unusual/amusing postcodes in Canada:
• B3G1N5 (begins) Eastern Passage, NS;
• B4N4N4 (banana) Kentville, NS;
• L1V1N6 (living) Pickering Southwest, ON:
• L3C3L5 (levels) Orilla, ON:
• L4G3R5 (lagers) Aurora, ON;
• M4G1C5 (magics) East York (Leaside), ON;
• M4L1C3 (malice) East Toronto (India Bazaar / The Beaches West), ON;
• M4R1N3 (marine) Central Toronto (North Toronto West), ON;
• P3N1L3 (penile) Greater Sudbury (Val Caron), ON;
• P4N1C5 (panics) Timmins Southeast, ON;
• R3J3C7 (reject) Winnipeg (St. James-Assiniboia SE), MB;
• R3L1C5 (relics) Winnipeg (River Heights East), MB;
• R3M0V3 (remove) Winnipeg (River Heights Central), MB;
• R3T1R3 (retire) Winnipeg (Fort Garry NE / University of Manitoba), MB;
• S3N1L3 (senile) Yorkton, SK;
• S7R0K3 (stroke) Saskatoon Northwest, SK;
• T1R1N6 (tiring) Brooks, AB;
• V1C4R5 (vicars) Cranbrook, BC;
• V1K1N6 (Viking) Merritt, BC;
• V1X3N5 (vixens) Kelowna East Central, BC;
V4G1N4 (vagina) Delta East Central, BC.
Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
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