05/20/2013 03:58 EDT | Updated 07/20/2013 05:12 EDT

On Victoria Day, protesters at Montreal rally call for end to ties with monarchy

MONTREAL - The Queen would likely not be amused by the way Victoria Day was observed in downtown Montreal on Monday.

At a rally of hardcore Quebec nationalists, a handful of people threw darts at a photo of the Queen. Others held up signs saying "Down with the monarchy" and "Quebec will soon be a republic."

In Quebec, there is little love for the monarchy, and Monday`s public holiday is now known as the Journee nationale des patriotes, to mark a rebellion against the British in 1837-1838.

Pierre Veronneau, who made the dartboard used at the rally, said he wanted to make a point that Quebecers don't feel any connection to the Queen.

"I'm not someone who is politically correct," Veronneau said, calling the royal family "parasites" who "do absolutely nothing."

Like many at the rally, Veronneau said he hopes to see an independent Quebec in his lifetime, without any ties to the monarchy.

Victoria Day marks the birthday of Queen Victoria and is celebrated on the last Monday before May 25. It's often recognized as the beginning of the summer season.

But the holiday also holds historic significance.

As the monarch in 1867, Queen Victoria is sometimes recognized as the "Mother of Confederation" for helping to bring the country together.

In Quebec, though, the name of the holiday has changed over the years, reflecting the province's complicated relationship with the monarchy.

Quebec celebrated Victoria Day until the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, when the holiday was changed to the Fete de Dollard, in honour of the 17th-century French soldier and colonist Adam Dollard des Ormeaux.

The name was changed again in 2003 to Journee des patriotes.

Bernard Landry, Quebec's Parti Quebecois premier at the time, said the move was to recognize the patriots' struggle for "political liberty and to obtain a democratic system of government."

These days Quebecers sometimes joke they're not sure what the holiday is for, but they're glad to have the day off.

For those at the Montreal rally, however, it was a chance to remember an important moment in the evolution of Quebec nationalism.

Even if opinion polls put sovereignty at near-historic lows, one man at the rally said he remained committed to the cause.

"We're here to say it's not dead, even if (the movement) has slowed," said Guy Tousselle, 50, adding that he feels no connection to the monarchy.

"The roots in the rest of Canada are Anglo-Saxon, that's fine," he said.

"But those aren't my roots."

The Harper Conservatives' reverence for the monarchy has always been a source of some puzzlement and scorn in Quebec — and the disconnect with La Belle Province was underscored on Monday.

Monday`s rally attracted at least two political figures, Bloc Quebecois chief Daniel Paille, and Jean-Martin Aussant, who heads up the small provincial independence party Option nationale.

While he didn't support throwing darts at a photo of the Queen, Aussant also said he envisions an independent Quebec without ties to the monarchy.

"If other nations want one, or want to preserve the monarchy, that's their choice."