Québec's Motto

On the plans which he had prepared for the construction of the Hôtel du Parlement de Québec (Québec's parliament buildings), Eugène-Étienne Taché took the initiative to inscribe, under the provincial coat of arms above the main door, a MOTTO of his own invention: Je me souviens (I remember). The building contract (to which these plans were appended) was notarized on February 9, 1883, following prior government authorization on January 22. Thus, the Québec motto dates from 1883, but it became official a half-century later when it was formally introduced into the description of Québec's new coat of arms adopted on December 9, 1939. It has appeared on Québec licence plates since 1978.

Eugène-Étienne Taché never clearly explained the meaning of his motto; its significance is only understood by placing it in the context of its creation. Taché wanted to make the façade of the Hôtel du Parlement into a pantheon of Québec history. Its bronze statuary represents Amerindians, explorers, missionaries, soldiers and public administrators from the French regime as well as such British figures as Wolfe, Dorchester and Elgin. The motto placed above the main door sums up Taché's intentions: to remember the history of Québec and its renowned historic figures. Moreover, in an 1883 report justifying his project, he wrote: "These are a part of the memories that I want to evoke, while leaving our descendents the opportunity and care to complete them."

Popular rumour sometimes associates Je me souviens with another motto, Née dans les lis, je grandis dans les roses (Born in the lilies I grow in the roses), created around 1900 by Taché but expressing a completely different idea, as emphasized by David Ross McCord (1844-1930), founder of the Montréal museum bearing his name, in his Canadian Notebook (vol III). Proposed by Ernest Gagnon to go with a monument in tribute to the "Canadian Nation" - a project that did not materialize - this motto appears again in a slightly modified version on the medal that Taché designed for Québec's tercentenary in 1908: "Née sous les lis, Dieu aydant, l'œuvre de Champlain a grandi sous les roses" (Born under the lilies, God helping, Champlain's work has grown under the roses).