The French Founded Colonies While Columbus Lost a Rhyme


CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS does not mean as much to Canadians as to other people in the Americas.

The Norsemen were here first, and the first lasting European settlement was founded by France.

A French sailor named Jacques Cartier made three voyages north to the New World between 1534 and 1542. He landed at what is now Montreal in 1535.

The colony of New France wasn't founded until the next century when Samuel de Champlain founded Port Royal, Nova Scotia, in 1605 and later brought settlers to Quebec in 1608, 12 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. Sieur de Maissoneuve founded Montreal in 1642. All three explorers are remembered in streets, bridges, and towns.

The poem about Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492 is known by all English-Canadian schoolchildren; but it doesn't rhyme in French. There is no Columbus Day in Canada. No towns are called Columbus, but a major street in Montreal does bear his name.

Whether British Columbia and the Columbia Mountains memorialize the Genoese explorer is open to question.

One left-wing politician finds him important, though.

Jim Fulton, a New Democratic Party member of the federal House of Commons, recently sent a letter to the Spanish Embassy in Ottawa demanding that Spain apologize to the native people of North America for what Columbus did to them five centuries ago.

"The public relations and security consequences of not recognizing the original and continuing First Nations governments and people could be difficult for Spain," Mr. Fulton warned.

There has been no reply from the descendants of the Spanish employers of the famous Italian navigator.

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