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15th Anniversary QAHN Convention, Lower Ottawa Valley

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--July 30, 2015.

The event was absolutely fantastic! I enjoyed all the activities over the two days. The Macdonell-Williamson House was particularly inspiring. From the perspective of heritage restoration and preservation, it was very pertinent to what we are trying to do at St Mungo's and it could easily tie into a circuit of historic properties along both sides of the Ottawa River. A brilliant idea to include it in the activities… I consider the luncheon at St Mungo's a roaring success... It was the perfect venue for the awards… I loved the hustle and bustle. It created a wonderful buzz that will help us at St Mungo's as we go into the future… It brought an outstanding constituency of dedicated heritage enthusiasts to St Mungo's and their appreciation was a wake-up call to the tired little congregation having trouble seeing beyond yesterday's worldview… Many thanks to QAHN for agreeing to be the catalyst for change.

Cecil McPhee, St. Mungo’s Church / Scotch Road Cemetery Association

larger_dsc_0315.jpg Once again, records were broken at this year’s convention of the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network. With over 80 people in attendance, including representatives of heritage groups from across Quebec, members of the general public and political leaders, the 15th annual QAHN convention took place at six venues in four municipalities, two MRCs, and two provinces – all situated in close proximity to each other amid the splendid surroundings of the historic Lower Ottawa River Valley.

Exceptionally, this year’s programming took place over two full days. Friday (June 5) got under way with heritage-themed guided tours of the Hydroelectric Dam in Carillon, Quebec. The power plant, built on the Ottawa River between 1959 and 1963, occupies the site of the Long Sault Rapids, scene of Dollard des Ormeaux’s ill-fated 1660 battle with the Iroquois.

On Friday afternoon, participants congregated at the Macdonell-Williamson House, on the opposite side of the Ottawa River in Chute-à-Blondeau, Ontario. Located within sight of the Pointe-Fortune-Carillon ferry crossing, this historic Georgian home was built in 1817 by Upper Canada soldier, judge and political figure John Macdonell. In a state of neglect and facing demolition, it was acquired in 1978 by the Ontario Heritage Foundation. Constructed entirely of local stone, the house is currently being restored.

Visitors were greeted by President George Henderson and volunteers who toured people around the extensive building from basement to attic, with stops in the library, bedrooms and ballroom. Visitors were treated to a rare look at a 200-year-old mansion stripped bare of all its trappings, including furniture. Jean-François Furieri, of the firm Iconoplast, gave an overview of the restoration work currently being undertaken by his team to stabilize the plasterwork throughout the house.

larger_img_9842.jpg Historian and rare bookseller David G. Anderson then gave a presentation on historic fur trade sites in the border counties of Eastern Ontario, focusing on three leading explorers of the British period: mapmaker David Thompson, Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser. This was followed by a talk by Métis historian Anne Anderson who spoke about the Pemmican Wars, and more specifically the political and family struggles of Métis woman Magdeleine Poitras-Macdonell.

larger_5.jpg On Friday evening, participants gathering at the Auberge des Gallant in nearby Sainte-Marthe, Quebec. Here they attended an informal QAHN Cocktail, followed by supper at the hotel. On hand for the occasion was special guest Lucie Charlebois, MNA for Soulanges and Quebec Minister for Readaptation, Youth Protection and Public Health. The evening concluded with a meeting of QAHN’s board of directors.

Following breakfast at the hotel, and a crossing of the ferry over the Ottawa River between Pointe-Fortune and Carillon, the Saturday (June 6) program began with participants gathering at Christ Church in Saint-André-d’Argenteuil (St. Andrew’s East) for QAHN’s annual general meeting. This Anglican church, completed in 1821, and classified as a historic site by the province of Quebec, was once the place of worship of Sir John Abbott (Canada’s third prime minister) and, later, of Dr. Maude Abbott, a pioneer woman doctor and a leader in pathology and cardiology.

larger_6.jpg André Jetté, the Mayor of Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, welcomed visitors to his municipality. Presentations were then made by QAHN President Simon Jacobs, Executive director Matthew Farfan, and Montreal Committee Chair Rod MacLeod, who outlined QAHN’s initiatives over the past year.

Following another brief meeting, at which QAHN’s directors renewed the mandates of the executive, participants returned to Carillon for a tour of the Argenteuil Museum, with animation by historian Robert Simard. The museum is situated in an old “barracks” built entirely of locally quarried stone at the time of the construction of the Carillon Canal in the 1830s. Now a National Historic Site, the barracks housed soldiers during the Lower Canada Rebellions. Today, the museum is home to over 10,000 objects that tell the story of Argenteuil County and the Lower Ottawa River Valley.

In the afternoon, attendees headed up the road to Cushing, in the Municipality of Brownsburg-Chatham, where they congregated for lunch and a guided tour at St. Mungo’s, a superb church built in 1836 by some of the same masons who built the Ottawa River canals. The church is currently undergoing the last phase of a lengthy restoration, a process that has taken years, but that is slowly returning the church to its former glory.

larger_4.jpg At St. Mungo’s, they were greeted by Yves St-Denis, the MNA for Argenteuil. The MNA saluted participants for working so hard to preserve Anglophone heritage, which he called “a part of the heritage of all Quebecers,” and thanked them for visiting the “most beautiful riding in Quebec.”

During the buffet lunch in the church hall by local caterer “Aux Lubies Gourmandes,” keynote speaker Michael Cooper, of Wakefield’s Fairbairn House, gave an inspirational, and sometimes humourous, talk titled “Ply Them with Whisky: Motivating Heritage Volunteers at the Community Level.”

larger_dsc_0367.jpg This was followed by the presentation of QAHN’s annual volunteer recognition awards. The 2015 Marion Phelps Award, presented to an individual who has worked over a period of years to preserve and promote Quebec’s English-speaking heritage, went to Elaine Fuller for her leadership in getting St. Mungo’s restored and for her volunteer work at the Argenteuil Museum and the Argenteuil County Historical Society.

The 2015 Richard Evans Award, presented to an organization or group of volunteers, went to the Scotch Road Cemetery Association, whose members have worked tirelessly over many years to restore and maintain one of the oldest pioneer cemeteries in the Laurentians.

Finally, in honour of QAHN’s 15th anniversary, a surprise Special Recognition Award was presented to Rod MacLeod for 15 years of unstinting service to QAHN – as President for five years, Editor of Quebec Heritage News, Chair of the Montreal Committee, and as the wearer of countless other hats.

QAHN's 2015 Convention would not have been possible without the generous support of the following sponsors: Department of Canadian Heritage; Ministère de la culture du Québec MRC de Vaudreuil-Soulanges; MRC d'Argenteuil; Ville de Brownsburg-Chatham; Municipalité de Saint-André-d'Argenteuil; Yves St-Denis, Député d'Argenteuil; Lucie Charlebois, Députée de Soulanges et Ministre à la Réadaptation, à la Protection de la jeunesse et à la Santé publique

To view more great photos from the 2015 QAHN Convention in the Lower Ottawa River Valley, click here!