Roger Blanchette’s educational history
I attended the Aylmer Heritage Association event promoted as “The history of education in the Outaouais...200 years of struggles and small victories” presented by Roger Blanchette. I also attended a previous talk, given weeks earlier by Mr Blanchette, on “The Lumber Barons”.
The Aylmer Heritage Association is to be commended for presenting history talks and must be encouraged to continue that good work. Much thanks go to this Association that has laboured tirelessly over many years and has been both steward and guardian of our community’s history and heritage.
At the event, Mr Blanchette began his presentation by saying that if we are to understand anything about the history of education in the Outaouais, we must understand the “… important events of the Rebellion of 1837-38 …”.
This seemed an odd place to start a lecture on the 200-year history of education in the Outaouais. I expected Mr Blanchette’s lecture to cover the period where colonization began in 1800, or at least 1817 if taken literally. Instead, what we got was a lecture focused wholly on the politics and events that shaped education for the economically deprived in the Francophone population, beginning in 1837. The blame was apportioned equally to the English elite, the clergy, Charles Dewey Day and women – “c’était juste des femmes qui enseignaient”. This starting point can only be described as a surprising departure from my expectations.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I did not stay for the entire lecture. I paid my bill and left when Mr Blanchette asserted that a member of Philemon Wright’s family was guilty of rape and pillage, participating in the destruction of St Benoît de Mirabel. Asked to repeat the claim, he doubled-down. During his earlier presentation of “The Lumber Barons”, he accused another member of the Wright family of having committed five murders – an equally shocking and equally false assertion. Both are members of my family ancestry.
In a polite email exchange with Mr Blanchette, he explained to me that when he gives a lecture on a specific subject, “digression can occur and I sometimes arrive at another topic, perhaps an anecdote without elaboration or nuance”. He wrote that in the case of (person mentioned in the Lumber Baron talk), what he had asserted was a “rumor, that is to say, a legend”. Then, as for (person mentioned in the Education talk), he admitted that he should have been clearer and more precise in mentioning that although Major (person mentioned in the Education talk) mobilized his militia in Wright’s Town in 1837, “the Wright’s Town militia did not participate in any battle.”
No one’s reputation should be subjected to gratuitous defamation; especially not the dead. This response is written to address the persistence with which that defamation has occurred. If history is to be presented as real history, it should be delivered with honesty and integrity. The Association is certainly not responsible for the content of the talk, but the Association may have to take steps in the future to ensure that their advertising truly reflects the content of the presentation.