MONTREAL — Paul McCartney told Quebec nationalists on Thursday "to smoke the pipes of peace" over their opposition to his free concert celebrating the city's 400th anniversary.
Several artists and politicians have questioned McCartney's participation in the weekend birthday celebrations of French-speaking Quebec City because of his British roots.
But McCartney said he was unmoved by their claim his presence evokes painful memories of Britain's conquest of New France, which included Quebec, in 1760.
"I think it's time to smoke the pipes of peace and to just, you know, put away your hatchet because I think it's a show of friendship," McCartney said on Radio-Canada.
McCartney tried to deflate the political rhetoric around Sunday's show on the Plains of Abraham, site of the pivotal 1759 battle between British General James Wolfe and France's Marquis Louis-Joseph de Montcalm.
"The kind of thing I read about in the schoolbooks when I was a kid was ... who was General Wolfe?" he said jokingly. "I still haven't figured it out."
Since the celebrations of the city's four centuries of uniquely French culture kicked off in July, Francophones criticized elements of the festivities they feel are too English.
The ex-Beatle said he has been working on expanding the few lines of French he used in the 1965 hit "Michelle."
"Come on Quebece-ins (Quebecers), love me baby," said McCartney.
The open-air concert is his only scheduled appearance in North America this year. Organizers are expecting a crowd of around 200,000.