Message on the occasion of the 475th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s arrival in Gaspé
July 23, 2009
OTTAWA— I am delighted to extend greetings to all Gaspesians who, “in a spirit of true friendship, authenticity and beauty,” invite us to celebrate today the 475th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s arrival in Gaspé.
What our history books teach us of Cartier’s first expedition in 1534 has become the stuff of legend: a commission by the King of France to search for gold in the New World and find a passage to Asia; a crew of 61 men setting sail on two boats; an Atlantic crossing, from St. Malo to Cape Bonavista, in just 20 days, followed by the exploration of the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, of the Magdalen Islands, Prince Edward Island and Chaleur Bay; cordial relations with the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, in spite of protests by Chief Donnacona when Cartier erected a cross at Pointe de Penouille, claiming the territory in the name of King Francis I, and subsequently returned to France with two of Donnacona’s sons, Domagaya and Taignoagny.
Of course, certain aspects of the story are open to interpretation. May this summer’s many joyful celebrations of culture and the blending of cultures highlighting this historic date for the Gaspé Peninsula and all of Canada also provide us with the opportunity to further our understanding of our history and seek out the truth, two conditions necessary for respect and harmony.
The 475th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s arrival in Gaspé is celebrated on July 24, 2009.