Québec, largest province of Canada. Québec is located in the eastern part of Canada and extends north from the United States border to Hudson Strait and east from the shores of Hudson Bay to the region of Labrador. Québec is nicknamed La Belle Province (The Beautiful Province) because of the splendor and diversity of its landscape and architecture. The site of the first permanent French settlement in North America, Québec is unique among the Canadian provinces in that the vast majority of its population is of French descent and speaks French as a first language. To many French Canadians, Québec is far more than a province; it is a cultural homeland.
The province’s enormous size and geographical variety have resulted in a wide range of climates and economic activities, and a wide distribution of population. Québec’s landscape is divided into three major regions: the Canadian Shield, the St. Lawrence Lowlands, and the Appalachian Region.
The Canadian Shield, which lies in the northern part of the province, makes up the overwhelming majority of Québec’s territory. This region is sparsely inhabited as cold temperatures and permafrost (permanently frozen ground) make it unsuitable for agriculture. However, the Canadian Shield and the southeastern Appalachian Region are rich in natural resources. As a result, mining, forestry, and hydroelectric power production predominate in those areas. The St. Lawrence Lowlands, sandwiched between the other two regions, form the agricultural, industrial, and commercial center of Québec. The province’s population is largely concentrated in this region, which is where most of Québec’s largest cities are located.
Québec is the oldest province in Canada, settled by the French in the 1600s. It was one of the four original provinces that united in 1867 to form the Dominion of Canada. Its capital, Québec City, is the oldest city in Canada, and its largest city, Montréal, is the second largest metropolitan area in the country after Toronto, Ontario.
Québec is located in eastern Canada. It is bordered on the west by the province of Ontario, James Bay, and Hudson Bay; on the east by the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador; on the north by Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay; and on the south by the province of New Brunswick and the states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Québec covers an area of 1,542,056 sq km (595,391 sq mi), including 176,928 sq km (68,312 sq mi) of inland fresh water. This huge territory has a triangular shape and occupies approximately one-sixth of Canada’s landmass. At its greatest extreme, the province measures 1,957 km (1,216 mi) from north to south and 1,687 km (1,048 mi) from east to west. Québec’s territory includes the Magdalen Islands and Anticosti Island, both in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Québec is divided into three natural regions: the Canadian Shield in the north; the Appalachian Region in the south and southeast; and, between these two regions, the St. Lawrence Lowlands, see Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Lowlands.
About 90 percent of Québec’s territory lies on the Canadian Shield. Geologically, this area consists of an underlying layer of hard rock from Precambrian times, the earliest geologic era, that has been subjected to prolonged erosion. The Canadian Shield is a vast, somewhat rough, and low-lying plateau that contains small rounded hills, interior plains and valleys, and numerous lakes, rivers, and marshes. Elevations range from sea level at James Bay and Hudson Bay to more than 1,500 m (5,000 ft) in the Torngat Mountains along the Québec-Labrador border. The Torngat range includes Mount d’Iberville, Québec’s highest peak, which rises 1,652 m (5,420 ft). On the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, northeast of Québec City, elevations are lower, but several peaks still exceed 1,160 m (3,810 ft). Although the region is rich in minerals and forestland, the vast majority of its land is not agriculturally productive. Wind and water have worn away much of its soil, although there are pockets of soil suitable for cultivation scattered throughout. In many places, the rocks are devoid of soil; in others, bedrock juts through the podzolized, or nutrient deficient, soil.
Geologically, the Appalachian Region is part of the Appalachian Mountains that extend from the Gaspé Peninsula in the southeastern part of the province south to Alabama in the United States. It includes the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The topography of the region is characterized by parallel alignments of long, narrow ridges and valleys with pockets of fertile land. Although most of the sharp mountains that once characterized the area have been smoothed by erosion, elevations can still be imposing. In the Gaspé Peninsula, the Notre Dame Mountains merge into the Shickshock Mountains, which contain Québec’s second highest peak, Mount Jacques-Cartier (1,268 m/4,160 ft).
The St. Lawrence Lowlands are the heart of Québec in terms of agriculture, commerce, and population. This narrow region of fertile land looks like a triangular-shaped basin with its apex around Québec City. These lowlands straddle the St. Lawrence River, the third longest river in Canada after the Mackenzie and the Yukon. Geologically the lowlands are composed of eroded sedimentary rocks and are fractured by faults. In the southwest part of the lowlands, the topography is remarkably level. It consists of a large plain that is only about 30 m (100 ft) high at Montréal. From Mount Royal (234 m/768 ft) in Montréal a series of isolated hills made up of igneous rock, known as monadnocks, extends eastwards into the Appalachian Region; these are called the Monteregian Hills. On the north shore of the St. Lawrence, the plain narrows and extends only a short distance beyond Québec City, where it is 90 m (300 ft) high. On the river’s south shore, the lowlands reach as far as Matane, in the Gaspé Peninsula. The northeast part of the St. Lawrence Lowlands includes Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
During the last recorded ice age, glaciers covered the entire province of Québec. The glaciers receded when the climate began to warm about 18,000 years ago. This deglaciation is largely responsible for the formation of the thousands of lakes for which Québec is famous. Among the largest are Lakes Mistassini, Eau-Claire, Saint-Jean, and Bienville, which are all located in the Canadian Shield. Québec also has many artificial lakes that serve as reservoirs for hydroelectric facilities. The Caniapiscau and the Manicouagan, also in the Canadian Shield, are two of the largest artificial lakes.
Québec’s most important river is the St. Lawrence River, which flows northeast from Lake Ontario to the North Atlantic Ocean. The St. Lawrence is 1,300 km (800 mi) long and traverses the entire province, connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. From Montréal to Québec City, the river is seldom less than 1 km (0.6 mi) wide. Upstream from Montréal, it broadens into Lakes St.-Louis and Saint-François and downstream into Lake Saint-Pierre. At Québec City, the river widens to several kilometers and becomes a tidal estuary, or an arm of the sea. It opens into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. One of Canada’s most important commercial waterways, the St. Lawrence serves as a major route for ships traveling to the interior of North America. Most of the province’s chief ports lie along the St. Lawrence, which is also an important source of hydroelectric power.
The most important tributaries north of the St. Lawrence are the Ottawa, the Saint-Maurice, and the Saguenay rivers. Québec’s fur trade, timber industry, and early rural settlement developed along these rivers. Further east and north, the Manicouagan, Outardes, and Betsiamites rivers are known for their large hydroelectric facilities. Tributaries south of the St. Lawrence include the Richelieu, the Saint-François, and the Chaudière rivers, which are only a few hundred kilometers long. The Rimouski and Matane rivers, also south of the St. Lawrence, are popular areas for recreation and salmon fishing. In the Canadian Shield, the longest rivers are the Rupert, Eastmain, Grande Baleine, and La Grand-Rivière, which is the site of a huge hydroelectric complex.
Québec has two systems of saltwater coastline. One is in the west and in the north, along James Bay, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and Ungava Bay. The other coastline is in the southeast along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Since prehistoric times, aboriginal peoples have used these two coastlines for fishing, hunting, gathering food, and trading. In the colonial period seafaring vessels of all kinds linked the colony with the outside world. When the wheat and timber trade developed in Québec during the 19th century, ships carried these products to Europe. Whaling also became important to the province’s economy, and large fishing companies developed along the Gaspé Peninsula in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The most intensive use of the coastlines came after World War II (1939-1945). Boomtowns, new ports, and railroads were built along the lower north coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, followed by huge hydroelectric projects in the James Bay area in the 1970s and 1980s.
Québec has a number of different climates because of its huge area. In the far north, near Hudson Strait, the province has an arctic climate, with frigid winters, brief annual thaws, and constant permafrost. Most of the Canadian Shield and the St. Lawrence Lowlands east of Lake Saint-Pierre have a subarctic climate, characterized by long, cold winters and relatively short, warm summers. In the south, there is a humid continental climate with cold winters and hot, muggy summers. The average July temperatures in Montréal range from a high of 26°C (79°F) to a low of 15°C (60°F) and in Kuujjuak in the far north from a high of 17°C (62°F) to a low of 11°C (52°F). January temperatures in Montréal range from -6°C (22°F) to -15°C (5°F) and in Kuujjuak from -19°C (-2°F) to -28°C (-19°F).
The annual precipitation in southern Québec ranges from 900 to 1,200 mm (35 to 45 in), but the figure decreases to about 500 mm (20 in) and even less toward the north. At least a quarter of the province’s annual precipitation falls in the form of snow. Near Montréal the growing season may last as long as 150 days, while to the north near Lac Saint-Jean it is only about 100 days. In the higher areas of the Gaspé Peninsula and in the north, the growing season is less than 80 days.
|E||Plant and Animal Life|
The province is divided into four types of environmental zones, each with its own distinct landscape. In the extreme north is tundra, a treeless region, where mosses, lichens, and low shrubs are the typical ground cover. South of the tundra is the taiga, which is predominately covered by sphagnum peat marshes and lichens. Although also largely unforested, it does have small coniferous trees. The boreal forest extends from the taiga to about the latitude of Québec City. It consists of larger coniferous trees, such as balsam fir, black spruce, white spruce, hemlock, and jack pine. The temperate forest lies south of the boreal forest. Its mixed and deciduous forests contain species such as fir, spruce, pine, sugar maple, birch, elm, and oak.
Québec’s forests teem with wildlife. Mammals found there include black bear, woodland caribou, moose, deer, beaver, mink, marten, red fox, and otter. Birds of the forest include ruffed grouse, hermit thrush, Canada jay, woodpecker, and a variety of warblers and ducks. The polar bear makes its home in the far north, as do the barren-ground caribou, arctic fox, and lemming. Birds of the far north include the snowy owl and ptarmigan. Whales, seals, and other sea mammals inhabit Québec’s coastal waters, as do saltwater fish such as cod, herring, and salmon. The province’s lakes and rivers contain salmon, trout, bass, pike, pickerel, and whitefish, as well as geese, ducks, loons, and other waterfowl.
Québec has many natural resources including fertile soils, vast mineral deposits, extensive forestland, and plentiful and powerful water supplies. While farmland represents just 3 percent of the province’s total land territory, excellent agricultural soils are found in the St. Lawrence Lowlands. Early European colonists settled in that area. In the Canadian Shield and the Appalachian Region, where rural settlement expanded from the 19th to the mid-20th century, soils are poorer. Notable exceptions in the Canadian Shield are the fertile regions around Lac Saint-Jean in the south and the Clay Belt of the southwest, near Lake Abitibi.
Forest products were the second of Québec’s natural resources to be developed. During the 17th and 18th centuries forests supplied wood for shipbuilding and domestic uses. In the early 19th century Québec began to develop its timber industry, and wood became a key export to Britain. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries Québec’s vast forestland provided trees to feed its burgeoning pulp and paper industries. Today, forests cover 62 percent of Québec.
Québec is a vast reservoir of mineral resources. The Canadian Shield, in particular, is rich in minerals and has some of the world’s largest deposits of metallic minerals. The mining of gold, copper, and asbestos became important in the second half of the 19th century, particularly in the Eastern Townships, located east of Montréal in the Appalachian Region. The asbestos mines located there made Canada a world leader in asbestos production. Québec’s mining industry exploded in the 1900s when gold and copper were discovered in the Abitibi region. Later, massive iron ore deposits were discovered along the central part of the Labrador border and in northern Québec near Ungava Bay. The main areas of Québec’s mining industry are northern Québec, the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, and the north coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Mining in the St. Lawrence Lowlands is largely limited to building materials such as granite and limestone.
Québec’s fourth natural resource, water, has become one of its most important. Besides being used for fishing and transportation, water was also developed as a source of energy. The first water-powered mills appeared during the colonial period. After 1815 they multiplied and became a common feature in the rural landscape and along the Lachine Canal near Montréal. In the late 19th century, when electricity became a new source of energy, waterpower was harnessed to generate electricity. Dams were built and electricity-generating plants were developed to supply energy to large mills. Most of these mills were for pulp and paper production. With technological improvements, new power stations were built, along with new power lines, which transmitted electricity over long distances.
Both the federal and the provincial governments in Canada are responsible for developing and enforcing regulations to protect the environment and fight against pollution. During the 1970s, Québec adopted laws to protect agricultural land, improve urban planning, and reforest timber areas. In the early 1980s Québec’s ministry of the environment launched a variety of programs to assess the environmental impacts of economic development. The ministry worked to improve the quality of drinkable water, to protect freshwater reserves, and to ensure the proper disposal of wastewater, domestic garbage, industrial discharge, and hazardous materials.
In 1989 Québec adopted legislation that authorized the government to designate certain plant and animal species as endangered species. Although the government designated numerous plant species as endangered, it only designated its first endangered animal species, the copper redhorse fish species, in 1999. The designation of an endangered animal species in Québec does not require the government to protect the species’ habitat; for example, the government chose not to implement regulatory habitat protection for the copper redhorse. However, the Québec government does restrict hunting and fishing. Citizens of Québec have formed hundreds of environmental organizations that are active in protecting natural resources and wildlife, including Les Amis de la Terre (The Friends of the Earth), Canards Illimité (Ducks Unlimited), and La société pour vaincre la pollution (The Society to Fight Against Pollution).
Québec has several problems with pollution. Because of its location at the northeast corner of North America, winds from the southwest carry pollution to the province. Acid rain has seriously damaged numerous lakes and some forestlands, with maple trees the hardest hit. About half of the sulfur compounds that cause acid rain originate at power plants and industrial sites in the United States, a quarter originate in Ontario, and a quarter originate within Québec. In addition, large parts of the St. Lawrence River are polluted by fertilizer runoff and toxic industrial discharges despite federally enforced regulations to improve the quality of the water.
Until the middle of the 19th century, economic activities in Québec were based on primary resources such as land, fish, timber, and fur-bearing animals. Although these activities are still important, Québec’s economy has become increasingly industrial and diversified, aided by its wealth of mineral resources and waterpower. Manufacturing and mining industries began developing in the mid-1800s and early 1900s. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries aluminum production and pulp and paper industries were developed. Throughout the 20th century service industries, which include trade, finance, retail, and tourism, experienced rapid growth.
|A||Employment and Labor|
The labor force in Québec was 4.1 million in 2006, compared with 5.6 million in Ontario and 14.3 million in all of Canada. The unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in Québec, compared with 6.5 percent in Ontario and 7 percent in Canada. Many factors contributed to the province’s high unemployment rate. International competition caused a decline in important industries such as textiles and footwear, which affected traditional manufacturing cities such as Montréal. Government cutbacks in health and education also led to layoffs and decreased job opportunities.
The service sector was the province’s largest employer, representing 75 percent of the total workforce. Manufacturing employed 17 percent of the workforce; construction 5 percent; agriculture 1 percent; and forestry, fishing, and mining 1 percent.
In 2004 the primary sector, which includes agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining, accounted for 2.6 percent of the GDP. The secondary sector, which includes manufacturing and construction, accounted for 35 percent of the GDP, and the tertiary, or service, sector accounted for 62.4 percent of the GDP.
Farmland occupies 3 percent of the province’s total land area. In 2006 Québec had 30,700 farms, the average size of which was 113 hectares (279 acres). Most of Québec lies on the Canadian Shield, which generally has poor soil. While limited quantities of hay, grass, and oats are grown on the Canadian Shield, few of its areas have soils rich enough to permit dairying, cattle raising, or cultivating vegetables. The exceptions are the areas around Lakes Saint-Jean and Abitibi. The main farming region is the St. Lawrence Lowlands, where the soils are fertile and the growing season relatively long. This area produces an abundance of dairy products, grains, tobacco, fruits, and vegetables.
Dairying is the leading agricultural activity in Québec. It is especially important adjacent to the St. Lawrence River near Ontario, along the lower Ottawa River, and east and north of Montréal, in the Eastern Townships and the Mauricie-Bois-Francs areas, respectively.
Hogs are the province’s second most important agricultural product, followed by cattle. Hog and cattle raising are particularly important in the rural areas around Montréal and Québec City. Poultry and eggs are also significant agricultural products.
Corn, hay, and oats—used mostly as feed for animals—are the province’s most important field crops. Potatoes are the leading vegetable; Québec is one of Canada’s leading potato producers. Most potatoes are grown on farms located north of Montréal and around Québec City. Some of the province’s most important fruit crops are apples, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Québec is a major producer of maple sugar and syrup.
The fur trade has historically been vital to Québec’s economy. Although no longer a dominant industry, it continues to be important, especially in Ungava in the northern part of the province. Farm-raised mink brings Québec its greatest income from fur. The primary animals trapped are marten, beaver, muskrat, fox, and fishers. Fur processing and the production of fur goods are also important activities.
|B2||Forestry and Fishing|
Québec has the largest forested land area of the Canadian provinces. However, of its 846,000 sq km (326,600 sq mi) of forestland, only 62 percent is productive and accessible. Most of the forestland is owned by the provincial government, which issues timber licenses to lumber companies.
Forestry is largely concentrated in the Canadian Shield and the Appalachian Region. The most productive forests are in northern Québec, Abitibi-Temiscamingue, and the areas around the Saguenay River and Lac Saint-Jean. Abundant stands of fir, spruce, and other softwoods help make the province a world leader in pulp and paper production. Although softwoods predominate, some birch and other hardwoods are cut and used mostly for construction. Other forest products include Christmas trees, which are farmed in the Laurentides and the Eastern Townships.
Deep-sea fishing has traditionally supported about ten times as many people as inland fishing, which is largely recreational. Although fishing is not considered a significant economic activity in most of Québec, it is still a major source of income and jobs in some areas, including the Magdalen Islands and the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula. The upper St. Lawrence River is also an important area for fishing. Some of Québec’s most valuable catch includes cod, lobster, shrimp, and crab. Since the late 1980s, however, overfishing has been a problem. Many fish-processing factories closed as the catch declined, and this left many people in Québec’s fishing industry unemployed.
The leading metallic minerals in Québec are iron ore, gold, and copper. Asbestos and peat are the principal nonmetallic minerals, and stone and cement are the leading structural minerals. Among the major mining centers are the north coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where much of the province’s iron ore originates; the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region in the northwest, which has a store of precious metal deposits such as gold and copper; and northern Québec near Ungava Bay, which is a significant mining region for nickel, copper, and cobalt. The asbestos mines in the Eastern Townships have made Québec a world leader in asbestos production.
Although the historical significance of manufacturing has declined in Québec, particularly as communications and service industries have become increasingly important, it is still a key economic activity. The main categories of industrial production in Québec include pulp and paper products; machines, electrical equipment, and audio-visual devices; and petroleum and coal products. Industries that produce nuclear reactors, mechanical parts, and aluminum products are also significant.
Most of the manufacturing plants in Québec are located in the densely populated south. The Montréal area is the industrial heart of Québec and is among Canada’s leading manufacturing centers. Mauricie-Bois-Francs, north of Montréal, and Chaudières-Appalaches, southeast of Québec City, are also important industrial regions. The province’s ample and inexpensive hydroelectric power has helped other areas, such as those along the Saint-Maurice and Saguenay rivers north of the St. Lawrence, to become leading pulp and paper producers or aluminum centers. One of the world’s largest aluminum plants is located in the Saguenay Valley.
Service industries grew rapidly at the end of the 20th century to become one of the largest sectors of Québec’s economy. They employ the largest number of workers in Québec and account for the largest percentage of the GDP. Many service industries have offices in Montréal and Québec City, but many are also located in other cities, including Chicoutimi, Hull, Trois-Rivières, and Sherbrooke. Québec’s leading service industries include community, business, and personal services; finance, insurance, and real estate; wholesale and retail trade; transportation and communication; and government.
The tourist industry is an important part of Québec’s economy. Tourists are drawn by the scenic beauty of Québec’s natural landscape and by its French culture and history.
Wholesale and retail trade is also a major contributor to Québec’s economy. Food, machinery, cars, and clothing are the main sources of revenue in this sector. Québec’s exports include wood, aluminum, aircraft, telecommunications equipment, newsprint, and electricity. Québec imports cars and trucks, telecommunications and electronic devices, and aircraft motors. Québec’s major trading partners include the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, and France. Québec also trades with the other Canadian provinces. Its main partners are Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick.
With no known commercial deposits of coal, petroleum, or natural gas, Québec turned toward water power as an alternative source of energy. In the late 1990s, 50 percent of the energy used in Québec came from electricity produced in hydroelectric or nuclear facilities, while refined petroleum products accounted for 49 percent. The remainder came from electricity produced in thermal plants burning oil.
The province’s extensive water resources allow it to produce hydroelectric power relatively inexpensively. Today, Québec is a leading producer of hydroelectric power in North America. Most of the province’s hydroelectricity is generated by Hydro-Québec, a provincial government-owned corporation that operates more than 50 hydroelectric power plants and is one of the largest producers of electricity in Canada.
One of Canada’s largest power plants is Hydro-Québec’s La Grande 2 installation on the La Grande River, which flows into James Bay. Other major Hydro-Québec plants include two more on the La Grande; the Beauharnois installation on the St. Lawrence River; the Manic facilities on the Manicouagan River; the installation at Carillon on the Ottawa River; and stations on the Bersimis River. Hydro-Québec also operates several thermal and nuclear power plants in the lowlands region. See also James Bay Project.
Québec imports its oil, gas, and coal from other provinces and countries, and it has many depots, pipelines, and oil refineries. The province sells electricity to the United States and to other Canadian provinces, including Ontario and New Brunswick; it also buys electricity from these places when necessary.
Québec’s transportation facilities are mostly concentrated in the southern part of the province. Montréal is the transport hub of the region—and of the country—and is the focal point of Québec’s road, rail, air, and sea transportation network.
Highways and railroads in Québec are concentrated in the St. Lawrence Lowlands between Québec City, Montréal, and the Eastern Townships. There are 26,000 km (16,156 mi) of highways. The Trans-Canada Highway traverses Québec for 640 km (400 mi) along the south bank of the St. Lawrence River between New Brunswick and Ontario. The Laurentian Autoroute links Montréal with resort areas in the Laurentian Mountains. Autoroute 40 connects Montréal and Québec City through Trois-Rivières on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Autoroute 10 connects Montréal and Sherbrooke in the Eastern Townships.
Québec has an extensive network of mainline and secondary railroad track in operation, mostly belonging to the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Largely concentrated in the St. Lawrence Lowlands, branch lines of these railways run to western Canada, the Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador), and points in the United States. VIA Rail Canada, a federal government corporation that manages passenger service on the two national railways, is based in Montréal; it provides service within the province and to Ontario and the Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island). Other railroads built by mining companies extend into the northern, coastal, iron-producing areas and are used mostly to carry freight. There are also minor lines connecting local communities throughout the region.
Québec has several airports, the largest of which are located in the St. Lawrence Lowlands. Montréal-Trudeau International Airport is the province’s main airport for domestic and international flights and is one of Canada’s busiest airports. A second international airport, Mirabel, is located north of Montréal and is primarily used for air cargo. The Jean Lesage International Airport near Québec City is also a busy terminal for domestic flights and has some international charters. Québec is served by Air Canada, which is based in Montréal, and by several other airlines.
The St. Lawrence Seaway, a major transportation development connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean, opened in 1959. The seaway cuts through the heart of commercial and industrial Québec, and several of its major locks and canals lie within the province. Because the seaway’s channel is deep enough to permit oceangoing ships access to the interior of North America, some Québec ports have lost their historic role as transshipment points to inland and Great Lakes harbors. However, commerce has grown, and Montréal’s strategic position on the St. Lawrence River has enabled its port, in particular, to remain one of the busiest on the continent. The Port of Montréal plays an important role in transporting goods—including grains, petroleum, and general cargo—between Canada and the rest of the world. Other leading ports include the Port of Québec in Québec City and ports at Sept-Îles and Trois-Rivières, which also lie along the St. Lawrence River.
Québec has many prestigious newspapers. The most influential daily newspapers in Québec are located in Montréal, which is home to Le Devoir, La Presse, Le Journal de Montréal, and the English-language Gazette. Québec City’s chief papers are Le Soleil and Le Journal de Québec. The province also has many weekly newspapers, most of which are published in French. In the late 1960s the government founded Radio-Québec, which was soon expanded to include television broadcasting and was renamed the Québec Broadcasting Bureau. Other major television stations include Radio-Canada (French) and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC (English), both owned by the federal government, and Télémétropole (French), CFCF (English), and CKMI (English), which are private. Most of these stations are located in Montréal, except for CKMI, which is in Québec City. There are also numerous radio stations in the province that broadcast in either French or English. Except for Radio-Canada, most are private.
In 1997, 28 percent of households in Québec had a personal computer at home, up from 10.5 percent in 1992. This compared to 36 percent for Canada as a whole. Only 8.2 percent of Québec households used the internet in 1997, compared to 13 percent for all of Canada.
Québec is Canada’s second most populous province after Ontario. According to the 2001 national census, Québec had a population of 7,237,479. This represented an increase of almost five percent over the 1991 figure of 6,895,963. The province represents about a quarter of the total population of Canada, although this proportion has been decreasing, largely because of demographic changes in Québec that began occurring in the 1960s.
Québec’s population is distributed unevenly, and much of northern Québec is sparsely settled. Historically, Québec’s population has been concentrated in the south, including the St. Lawrence Lowlands, the southern fringe of the Canadian Shield, and the Appalachian Region. Although Québec was predominantly rural until the early 1900s, it rapidly urbanized during the 20th century. By 2001 Québec’s population was 80 percent urban, making Québec one of Canada’s most urbanized provinces. The vast majority of people live in urban areas along the St. Lawrence River, with almost half of the total population living in the Montréal metropolitan region. The overall population density in 2006 was 6 persons per sq km (14 per sq mi).
In the late 20th century Québec’s annual population growth decreased because of demographic trends, particularly a falling birth rate. While the birth rate in Québec previously had been among the nation’s highest, it dropped dramatically after the 1960s and was lower than the national average by the end of the century. For example, the average birth rate in Québec was 31.5 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1951 compared with 27.2 per 1,000 for Canada as a whole. By 2006–2007 Québec’s birth rate had dropped to 10.9 per 1,000 inhabitants, compared with 10.7 per 1,000 for Canada.
Immigration to Québec also slowed in the latter part of the 20th century. Generally fewer than 30,000 people immigrated to Québec each year, compared with about 90,000 to Ontario. Québec has also fared poorly when it comes to internal migration, with more people moving out of the province to other parts of Canada than moving into it. From 1971 to 1991, Québec lost an average of 20,000 people per year to internal migration.
Many people have left Québec because of its high unemployment rate. Immigration to the province is low partly because of cultural and linguistic factors. Many large immigrant communities are located in Toronto, so new immigrants to Canada often prefer to move there. Immigrants who do not speak English may also be discouraged by Québec’s language laws, which require children who are not already proficient in English to attend a French-language school. These laws make it more difficult for immigrants to learn English in Québec than in other provinces. For immigrants who come to Canada wishing to improve their economic situation, English is generally a more attractive language than French, as it provides access to more job opportunities throughout the country.
Québec’s largest city is Montréal. The city’s population was 1,039,534 in 2001. The population of its larger metropolitan area was 3,666,300 (2006). Montréal’s metropolitan area includes Québec’s second largest city, Laval (population, 368,709), which occupies an island, Île Jésus (Jesus Island), northwest of Montréal. The province’s capital and third largest city is Québec City, which had a population of 169,076 in 2001, with its metropolitan area population totaling 723,300 (2006 estimate). The province’s other large cities include Longueuil (229,330), a residential and industrial suburb of Montréal; Gatineau (242,124), an industrial city on the Ottawa River; and Sherbrooke (147,427), a trading and manufacturing center located east of Montréal.
|C||Ethnic Groups and Languages|
While some 65 percent of the people in Québec declared themselves of Canadian origin, 13 percent claimed French origin in the 2001 census. Only 2 percent of Québec residents were of British descent, a smaller percentage than in other provinces. Indigenous peoples make up 1.5 percent.
During most of the 20th century Europeans—particularly Eastern Europeans, Italians, Germans, and Greeks—were the largest immigrant groups to Québec. However, a shift occurred in the 1960s and 1970s when the major flows of immigrants came from the Caribbean (Haiti), South and Central America (Chile and El Salvador), and Southeast Asia. Most of the new arrivals were refugees who, like the majority of Québec’s nonindigenous ethnic population, concentrated in the Montréal area. Ethnic minorities make up over 30 percent of the Montréal area’s population.
As ethnic minorities have increased in the Montréal area, ethnic tensions have become more of an issue. Much of this has revolved around linguistic issues. French speakers fear that the dominance of their language is threatened by the presence of immigrants who do not speak French, particularly those who wish to learn English rather than French. Many of these immigrants, in turn, feel their language rights are infringed upon by laws passed in the 1970s and 1980s that restrict the use of languages other than French in the workplace, government, and schools. Until recently, many ethnic groups were also poorly represented in municipal organizations. The government responded to this inequity in the last few decades by committing to hire more visible minorities, such as people of color or of Asian origins, in the civil service.
Québec has 11 indigenous nations, with a total population of about 67,000, including over 7,000 Inuit. The ten First Nations belong to two linguistic families, the Algonquian, which include the Crees, Malecites, Abenakis, and Algonquins, and the Iroquoian, which include the Huron-Wendats and Mohawks. The Inuit are part of the Inuit-Aleut (Eskimaleut) linguistic family. Most of the province’s indigenous population lives in one of over 50 communities and land reserves (land set aside by the government for the First Nations) throughout the province; others live mainly in the Montréal area. Many First Nations communities are located in the north, but there are also several major reserves in the St. Lawrence Lowlands. These include the Mohawk reserves of Kahnawake, Akwesasne, and Kanesatake (also known as Oka) near Montréal; the Abenaki community of Odanak near Trois-Rivières; and the Huron-Wendat community, Wendake, located north of Québec City. The Inuit live mostly in the far north, on the shores of Hudson and Ungava bays. In the Inuit territory, known as Nunavik, there are no reserves; the Inuit live in villages that have municipal status.
Québec is an overwhelmingly French-speaking province in a predominantly English-speaking country. In the 2006 census, 79 percent of Québec residents declared themselves Francophone, meaning they consider French to be their first language and speak it at home. Anglophones, people who consider English to be their first language and speak it at home, made up 7.7 percent of the population and 0.6 percent responded by choosing both French and English as their mother tongues. Allophones, people whose mother tongue is any language other than French or English, made up 11.9 percent of the population.
Although Canada is officially bilingual, Québec adopted French as its sole official language in 1974. Besides French and English, the most common languages spoken in Québec are Italian, Chinese, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Punjabi. Québec’s indigenous peoples generally use their own languages and speak either French or English as a second language.
Although Québec is primarily French-speaking, it has been growing more diverse. In the 1990s the numbers of French- and English-speakers declined, while those speaking other languages increased. Montréal has fewer French-speakers than the rest of the province because much of Québec’s foreign-born population is concentrated there. Montréal is also home to about 80 percent of Québec’s English-speaking population. Therefore, while more than 95 percent of Québec City’s population consider French their native tongue, only two thirds of Montréal’s population declare French to be their maternal language. See also Ethnic Groups in Canada.
The first Europeans to settle in present-day Québec were French Roman Catholics. As a result, the Roman Catholic Church has had a strong influence in Québec. Until the late 1960s the church controlled the province’s educational system and many of its health and social services, including hospitals. In the 1960s, during a period known as the Quiet Revolution, reforms by Québec’s Liberal Party government under Premier Jean Lesage greatly reduced the role of the church in provincial affairs. The overwhelming majority of Québec’s population is still Roman Catholic, totaling 83 percent in the 2001 census. No other religion could claim more than 1.5 percent of the population.
One of Québec’s social issues is the aging of its population. While this trend is occurring in many industrial nations, it is happening especially rapidly in Québec, largely because of the low birth rate and increased life expectancy. Especially significant is the increase in the number of people who are over 80. As the province’s population grows older, people begin to focus on issues such as social services for the elderly, the choice of retirement age, and the financial situation of retirees.
In the latter part of the 20th century, Québec also had to adjust to high divorce rates, changing roles of women, and changing family structures. The government enacted low-cost daycare for all children and enforced compulsory child support and alimony payments. It also addressed income disparities between men and women with the Pay Equity Act (1997). Sexual abuse and criminal violence were also of concern to residents of Québec. Government measures that sought to address these issues included the Youth Protection Act (1979), which protects and helps youth who have been mistreated or abused, and programs that provide legal, medical, moral, and financial support to crime victims in Québec.
Another social issue in Québec is the low standard of living among certain groups. This is an issue particularly for Québec’s indigenous population, especially in the north. Some indigenous people find it difficult to adapt to the provincial education system. Colleges and universities are usually located in the southern part of the province, and they may seem culturally and socially foreign and be too expensive. Resulting educational disparities, as well as discrimination and other factors, may contribute to the especially high rate of unemployment among the indigenous population. Urban and newly arrived immigrant groups have also experienced high unemployment and financial difficulties. For these populations, lack of fluency in French or English may make employment more difficult, while government cutbacks in the 1980s, particularly to the welfare system, have reduced the amount of financial assistance they receive.
Québec has also been plagued by linguistic tensions between its French- and English-speaking populations. When the birth rate of the Francophone population declined and the French language in Montréal became diluted, the Québec government adopted legislation to protect and impose the French language. The government passed the 1977 Charter of the French Language (Bill 101), which tightly restricted the use of English in the province. It also created the Law on Bilingual Advertising (1988), which stipulated that public signs, posters, and commercial advertising must be either solely in French or that French must be predominant. The English-speaking community strongly criticized both laws, and tensions between Anglophones and Francophones in the province greatly increased. Although the use of French is declining in Montréal due to new immigrants, the language has been strengthened overall in Québec, and a certain degree of linguistic peace has been achieved. See also French Canadian Nationalism.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL LIFE|
Under Québec’s Education Act of 1988, preschool, elementary, and secondary education is free to the province’s residents. Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. The education system is made up of four levels: elementary education, which includes preschool; secondary education; college education; and university education. The provincial government finances most of the system, but its general administration is decentralized. Public elementary and secondary schools are managed by local school boards; colleges and universities are independently managed. There is also a small network of private preschool, elementary, and secondary schools.
At all levels, teaching is generally done in either French or English, with French being by far the more common language of instruction. Some schools in indigenous communities use their native language. Since 1998 local school boards have been divided along linguistic lines, with separate boards for English- and French-language schools. There are also a few school boards for indigenous students. Prior to that time, school boards were split along denominational lines, with a majority of Catholic and a handful of Protestant school boards.
In the first half of the 20th century, much of Québec’s French-speaking population had a low level of schooling. Since then, the province has made a major effort to raise educational levels. In the early 1960s, the government took control of the school system from the Catholic Church. It created a ministry of education in 1964 to oversee the development and delivery of the province’s educational services. Less than a decade later a revised education system was in place, with universal access to an improved network of secondary schools and a new intermediate level of education between secondary schools and university known as CEGEPs (Collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel, or Colleges of General and Occupational Education).
The federal and provincial governments provide the bulk of funding for Québec’s universities, but the universities are independent legal bodies and highly autonomous. The province’s universities set their own procedures, although they consult and cooperate with the ministry of education. The majority of the province’s universities conduct courses in French. Université du Québec, a French-language institution with no official religious affiliation, was established in 1968. It operates campuses in several locations, including Montréal, Trois-Rivières, Rimouski, Hull, Rouyn-Noranda, and Chicoutimi. Also, its Télé-Université in Sainte-Foy offers distance learning. Other French-language institutions include Université de Montréal in Montréal; the Université de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke; and the Université Laval in Québec City, which grew out of a seminary originally established in 1663. Québec’s English-language institutions are Bishop’s University in Lennoxville and McGill University and Concordia University in Montréal.
|B||Libraries and Museums|
The first public library in Canada was the Québec Library, which was established in Québec City in 1779 largely through the efforts of Sir Frederick Haldimand, the British governor of Québec. There are now more than 900 public libraries in the province. Montréal’s municipal library has several branches and is known for its collection of works on Canada. Montréal is also home to the Bibliothéque Nationale du Québec (National Library of Québec), which is administered by the provincial government and serves as a depository for all publications published in Québec. The parliament buildings in Québec City house the National Assembly Library, where various parliamentary papers, public documents, books, charters, and other materials are stored. There are also many academic libraries in Québec. Among the most distinguished are those of Université Laval and McGill University, which are also major depositories for old books and maps.
Québec also has many museums. The Musée canadien des civilisations (Canadian Museum of Civilization) in Hull contains valuable collections on Canadian and indigenous history. The Musée de la civilisation (Museum of Civilization) in Québec City presents original expositions on Québec history and folklore, along with many exhibits from other countries. Also in Québec City are the Musée de l’Amérique Française (Museum of French America), a historical museum that focuses on the development of French culture in North America, and the Musée du Québec (Québec Museum) which houses a large collection of art by Québec artists dating from the 17th century to the present.
In Montréal, the galleries of the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (Montréal Museum of Fine Arts) display paintings by European masters and contemporary Canadian artists. The city’s Musée d’Art Contemporain (Museum of Contemporary Art) showcases the works of 20th-century and present-day Québec artists, while the Musée de la Pointe-à-Callière displays artifacts of the city’s early settlement. Other museums in Montréal include the McCord Museum of Canadian History and the Montréal Biodôme, with its replication of four major ecosystems found in the Americas. The Cosmodôme, in Laval, features a space education center and Space Camp Canada, a camp for children and adults that seeks to promote an interest in space science and general science through experiments and simulated experiences of space exploration. There are also numerous regional museums throughout the province.
The arts are an important part of cultural life in Québec. Theater, literature, and music are among the most lively areas. In the mid- and late 20th century, these arts were influenced by new forms of Québec nationalism. Cultural activities and artistic expression became one of the ways to maintain and express a distinct Québec cultural identity. The provincial government was instrumental in promoting this identity. It created several new institutions, without which the arts would not have had the success they now enjoy. The most important of these institutions has been the ministry of cultural affairs, created in the early 1960s. The ministry provides valuable financial and moral support for the literary and performing arts, including funding for numerous museums; libraries; and theatrical, ballet, and musical companies. The ministry also works to develop regional cultural centers within the province.
One of the oldest orchestras in Canada, L’Orchestre Symphonique de Québec (Québec Symphony Orchestra), was founded in 1902 by the composer Joseph Vezina. It is based in the Grand Théâtre in Québec City. Place des Arts is the main performing arts center in Montréal. It hosts performances by the Montréal Metropolitan Opera, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (Montréal Symphony Orchestra), the Montréal String Quartet, and several theatrical companies, including Le Rideau Vert, Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, the Jean Duceppe Theatre Company, and Carbonne 14. It also serves as home to Canada’s National Theatre School
Québec has produced many internationally renowned artists, novelists, poets, and singers. Among these are authors Gabrielle Roy, Anne Hébert, and Marie Claire Blais, as well as the English-language writers Mordecai Richler, Hugh MacLennan, and Leonard Cohen, who is also a musician. In cinema, Denys Arcand, Fréderick Back, François Girard, and many others have won prestigious awards, and in theater dominant figures include the playwrights Michel Tremblay and Robert Lepage. In dance Louis Robitaille and Annick Bissonnette are recognized along with artists performing in dance troupes such as O Vertigo and La La La Human Steps. Renowned classical musicians include pianist Louis Lortie, violinist Angèle Dubeau, and opera singers Richard Verreau and Joseph Rouleau. Québec is known for its chansonniers, or folksingers, who are often identified with Québec’s distinct society. Félix Leclerc, Gilles Vigneault, and Pauline Julien are three of the province’s best-known folksingers. Popular singers, including Céline Dion and Roch Voisine, have also achieved international recognition.
Québec has long been a popular vacation spot, combining scenic beauty with a colorful history and a unique cultural heritage. Millions of people come to Québec each year to see the diversity of the landscape, which offers something for nearly everyone. People are drawn to the plants and wildlife of the Gaspé Peninsula, the Saguenay River, and the Charlevoix region northeast of Québec City. In addition the province is known for the rustic charm of the Eastern Townships and the appeal of the many secluded lakes in the provincial parks. Québec City and Montréal, with their historic landmarks and French-inspired cuisine, have a European feel that is unique among North American cities.
|A||National and Provincial Parks|
Québec has many national parks. Among the province’s largest national parks are La Mauricie National Park in the Saint-Maurice Valley; Forillon National Park on the Gaspé Peninsula; and the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, a cluster of islands in the strait north of Anticosti Island. The Park Marin du Saguenay-Saint-Laurent is a popular destination for people who come to watch the beluga whales in the lower St. Lawrence River. The national historic parks of Fort Chambly, near Montréal, and Fort Lennox, on Île-aux-Noix near Saint-Jean, contain old fortifications. Other notable parks include Sir Wilfrid Laurier House National Historic Park, at Laurentides, the birthplace of the first French-Canadian prime minister of Canada; and the Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Park in Québec City, once the winter quarters of 16th-century French explorer Jacques Cartier. National Battlefields Park, also in Québec City, was the site of the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham, where the British defeated the French in the decisive event of the French and Indian War.
Québec also has many provincial parks and wildlife reserves. Gaspésie Park and La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve are noted fishing areas, while Laurentides, Mont Tremblant, and Mount Orford provincial parks are popular resorts for skiing. The Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, near Québec City, attracts hundreds of thousands of snow geese in migration season.
|B||Other Places to Visit|
Tourism is a year-round industry in Québec. Montréal and Québec City are among the province’s most popular tourist destinations. Montréal offers a unique blend of old and new. Historic Old Montréal contains landmark buildings, such as Saint Sulpice Seminary, which dates back to the 17th century. The modern central business district is a thriving commercial and cultural center with world-class shopping, restaurants, and theater. Those seeking a break from the downtown bustle can head to the park atop Mount Royal, which rises 234 m (768 ft) above Montréal and offers spectacular views of the city.
Québec City is the only fortified, or walled, city in North America north of Mexico. The city’s quaint old quarters, with its narrow winding streets and old stone buildings, along with the impressive National Assembly (Québec’s provincial legislature) buildings, make it one of the most beautiful cities in North America. The city’s rich history is reflected in structures such as the Citadel, a fortress that dominates the city, and religious institutions including Québec Seminary, which was built in 1663.
The province’s religious shrines, such as Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica near Québec City and Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montréal, receive hundreds of thousands of tourists and pilgrims each year. The lush countryside of Île d’Orléans (Island of Orléans), Charlevoix, and the Eastern Townships are perfect for scenic drives. Tourists who like wild nature and wide open spaces may visit the Gaspé Peninsula, the Saguenay, the north coast, or northern Québec. The mountains of the Laurentians and the Appalachians are also scenic places to visit, especially in early fall or winter.
|C||Sports, Recreation, and Annual Events|
Québec’s major sports franchises include the Montréal Canadiens ice hockey team, the Montréal Expos baseball team, and the Montréal Alouettes, a Canadian Football League team. Despite an avid sports-loving population, Québec has had problems keeping its professional franchises because the provincial government is unwilling to provide the extensive economic support necessary to keep a team in the city’s relatively small market. The Québec Nordiques ice hockey team was sold in 1995 and relocated to Denver as the Colorado Avalanche. Similarly, the Expos franchise saw attendance dwindle steadily at Olympic Stadium, but there was no support to build a new ballpark. In 2005 the team moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Washington Nationals.
Québec’s mountains, parks, long coastlines, and lakes and rivers provide ideal conditions for hiking, camping, mountain climbing, hunting, fishing, swimming, golfing, and boating, as well as for skiing, ice hockey, and other winter sports. A number of popular ski resorts are situated in the Laurentian Highlands located north and south of Montréal and surrounding Québec City. The most famous are Saint-Sauveur, Mont-Tremblant, and Mont-Orford in the Montréal region, as well as Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham in the vicinity of Québec City.
The province also hosts numerous festivals, many of which are in Montréal and Québec City. In summer, tourists flock to Montréal for the Montréal International Jazz Festival, the Montréal World Film Festival, and the Just For Laughs International Comedy Festival. Québec City hosts the Québec Summer Festival, which features music and theater, and the world renowned Québec Winter Carnival, which takes over the city for two weeks every February. Many other cities also host festivals, such as the Winter Carnival in Chicoutimi. Each June 24th the province celebrates the feast day of its patron saint, Saint John the Baptist.
Québec’s government is based on the British parliamentary system, in which the executive is chosen from, and responsible to, the legislature. The lack of a strict division between executive and legislative functions is known as a fusion of powers. This contrasts with the separation of powers that exists in the United States, where the executive and legislative are completely separate branches of government.
When the British Parliament passed the British North America Act (now known as the Constitution Act) in 1867, Québec became one of the four original provinces of the Dominion of Canada, along with Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The act gave Canada a constitutional monarchy, in which the British monarch was also Canada’s sovereign, or head of state. The new constitution established Canada as a federal state, meaning political power was divided between two levels of government: the Canadian Parliament based in Ottawa, Ontario, and separate legislatures in each of the provinces.
As in each province, Québec’s government comprised a federally appointed lieutenant governor, who represented the sovereign; an upper house, the legislative council, which was appointed by the lieutenant governor; and a lower house, the legislative assembly, which was elected by the people. Like all the Canadian provinces, Québec abolished its legislative council in 1968. The legislative assembly then became known as the Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly).
Québec is represented in the Canadian Parliament by 75 elected representatives in the House of Commons and by 23 senators in the Senate, who are appointed by the federal government. Canada’s constitution grants the federal government all the powers that it does not explicitly grant to the provincial governments. The federal government’s areas of jurisdiction include external trade and traffic, taxation for general purposes, postal service, censuses, national defense, currency and coinage, indigenous peoples’ affairs, criminal justice, and federal penitentiaries. The provinces have authority over areas such as health, education, municipal institutions, taxation for local purposes, civil justice, provincial prisons, local trade, natural resources, administration of public lands, and railroads. (The provincial government may choose to allocate some of these powers to the municipal governments.)
The federal and provincial governments have joint jurisdiction over only a few areas, notably agriculture and immigration. Over the years, some federal and provincial functions began to overlap. The federal government has often become involved in provincial programs by helping to fund them. This has caused tensions between the two levels of governments—in particular in the areas of health, education, culture, and labor. French-speakers in Québec have continually sought to renegotiate the balance of power defined by the Canadian Constitution to give Québec greater authority.
|A||Provincial Government Organization|
Québec’s provincial government consists of the lieutenant governor, the premier and Cabinet, and the National Assembly.
The nominal head of the Québec provincial government is the lieutenant governor, appointed by the federal government. The lieutenant governor represents the British monarch in the provincial government and has a largely ceremonial role. The lieutenant governor must give royal assent to all legislation passed by the National Assembly in order for it to become law. In practice, the lieutenant governor almost always acts on the advice of the premier and the Cabinet.
|A2||Premier and Cabinet|
The premier and the Cabinet form the executive branch in the provincial government. Following a provincial election, the lieutenant governor calls upon the leader of the political party with the greatest number of elected members in the legislature to become the premier and to form a government. The premier then chooses cabinet ministers, who usually head provincial government departments. The premier generally selects the cabinet ministers from among his or her own party. Because the premier and the Cabinet are drawn from the legislature, they have both executive and legislative powers. The premier and the Cabinet remain in office as long as they retain the confidence of a majority in the legislature. If the legislature withdraws its confidence, the premier and Cabinet must resign, and either a new government is formed or a new election is called. The premier and the Cabinet conceive and draft almost all of the proposed legislation, or bills, that the legislature considers.
The provincial legislature, called the National Assembly, is a unicameral, or one-chamber, body. Its 125 members are popularly elected from the same number of ridings, or electoral districts. A general election is held every five years, or at shorter intervals if the lieutenant governor, at the request of the premier, dissolves the assembly before then. Any Canadian citizen aged 18 or older who has lived in Québec for at least six months prior to an election, and who is not legally disqualified, is eligible to vote in provincial elections. The National Assembly studies and adopts or rejects bills in areas that are under provincial jurisdiction. It also supervises government activities. Assembly members can question the premier and cabinet ministers about government policies. In parliamentary committees, members of the National Assembly can also scrutinize government proposals.
Québec’s highest court is the Court of Appeal, which is presided over by a chief justice. Second in importance is the Superior Court, a trial court for criminal and civil cases. The federal government appoints Court of Appeal and Superior Court judges. The provincial government appoints judges of lower courts, including provincial and municipal courts. Québec, similar to all provinces, is responsible for both criminal and civil laws, but differs from the other provinces in that it has retained a system of civil law based on the French civil law rather than on English common law. Under the Québec civil code, cases are decided on the basis of written statutes that have been drafted by legislative bodies. This differs from the common-law system, where judges decide cases by referring to previous judicial decisions. The system of criminal law is uniform throughout all the provinces, including Québec. In place of the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the provincial police force in most provinces, Québec has its own provincial police force, La Sûreté du Québec, to enforce provincial laws.
Many political parties are active in Québec. The two most important are the Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois (PQ), which alternated as the majority party in the National Assembly in the late 20th century. Politicians of French descent have generally controlled both parties in Québec.
The Liberal Party runs candidates on both the national and provincial levels. It has worked to promote French Canadian interests within the Canadian federation. Québec Liberals have generally advocated that Québec remain part of Canada, but that the federal government have a reduced role in the province’s affairs. Under the leadership of Premier Robert Bourassa (1970-1976; 1985-1994), the Liberal Party worked with the federal government to propose a set of reforms to Canada’s constitution. The last of these reforms sought to acquire for Québec a special status of “distinct society,” with greater authority in the federation than other provinces. However, the reforms, known as the Meech Lake Accord (1987) and the Charlottetown Accord (1992), were never ratified.
In contrast, the Parti Québécois argues that Québec’s best interest is to separate from the rest of Canada. The PQ was founded on the objective of sovereignty-association, an envisioned union whereby Québec would be independent from the rest of Canada but would remain its economic partner, with a common monetary system, free trade, and other special agreements. Formed in 1968 by René Lévesque, a former member of Premier Jean Lesage’s Liberal Cabinet, the party quickly gained enough support to win control of the provincial government in 1976. However, when the PQ government held referendums in 1980 and 1995, asking Québec voters to approve the negotiation of sovereignty-association, the people rejected the notion (although by only a slight margin in 1995).
Following a narrow victory in the 1998 provincial election, the PQ delayed holding another referendum. Instead, it concentrated on finding remedies for Québec’s economic problems, such as reducing the deficit and reorganizing education and health and social services. Although the PQ is a provincial party, a federal counterpart, the Bloc Québécois, was formed in 1990 and quickly became a political force in national politics. See also French Canadian Nationalism.
Fledgling political parties were also formed in the 1980s and 1990s. They include the Action Démocratique du Québec and the Equality Party. Former Liberal Party ministers founded the Equality Party to protest the Liberal government’s handling of the Anglophone community, particularly with regard to language rights in the wake of Bill 22 (1974), which made French the official language of Québec. The influence of the federal Conservative Party, which dominated the provincial government in the late 1800s, had dwindled to almost nothing by the end of the 20th century. A realigned party made important gains in the 2006 national elections, however, which helped return the Conservatives to power in Canada.
The inhabited areas of Québec are divided into municipalities. The municipal system in Québec was implemented in the mid-1800s. Municipalities are governed by councils consisting of an elected mayor and aldermen (municipal councilors). The largest municipalities are the municipalités régionales de comtés (MRC; regional county municipalities). They were created in 1979 in order to improve urban and regional planning. Local municipalities within the MRCs include cities, towns, townships, and rural municipalities. Municipal governments generally have jurisdiction over services such as road systems, public sanitation, building codes, and parks and libraries.
The Québec government is responsible for health and social services. The province finances them through its two main sources of revenue: federal transfer payments and provincial income taxes. During the mid-1980s the government cut back on health and social services—including cutting subsidies to colleges and universities and lowering financial support to people in need—largely in an attempt to decrease provincial deficits. The ministry of health and social services, a provincial government department, manages Québec’s health and social services system. The government also established regional health and social services boards to oversee services within regions and adapt the system to meet each region’s unique needs.
The provincial social service system encompasses hundreds of public and private establishments, including hospitals, community centers, child and youth protection centers, residential and extended care centers, and centres locaux de services communautaires (CLSC; local community services centers). Among the services offered are free and universal health insurance, including medication coverage; daycare programs for preschool children; home-visitation programs for the elderly and infirm; and special services and centers for people in need, including handicapped people, the elderly, dependent children, people requiring physical therapy, and people suffering from long-term illnesses.
The first inhabitants of Québec were descendents of hunters who crossed the Bering Strait some 40,000 years ago and spread throughout North and South America. Inuit began arriving in northern Québec about 4,000 years ago. They slowly spread along the shores of Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and Ungava Bay to the Labrador coast. About 3,000 years ago, ancestors of the modern Algonquians entered from the west, crossed the Canadian Shield, and continued into the Maritime provinces. They developed cultures from 3,000 to 500 years ago, in the areas south of and inland from the territory occupied by the Inuit.
At the time of European contact in the 16th century, indigenous populations in the area that is now Québec were divided into three broad linguistic groups: the Iroquoian in the St. Lawrence Lowlands and the Appalachians; the Algonquian in the Canadian Shield and the Appalachians; and the Eskimo-Aleut in the Arctic. Tribes within these groups had their own dialects, customs, and folklore. Tribal subsistence patterns were dictated by the seasons and geographic location. In Inuit and Indian tribes, food came from hunting fish, birds, and land and sea mammals, and from gathering nuts, berries, and other food. Tribes that inhabited the St. Lawrence Lowlands also raised corn, beans, and squash. On the Canadian Shield, where soil and climate conditions prevented agriculture, people obtained corn through trade.
While the Vikings may have explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence around 1,000 ad, it was not until the 1500s that Europeans seriously began to explore the area that is now Québec. King Francis I of France commissioned French explorer Jacques Cartier to explore the northeastern part of North America in search of gold and to establish France’s claim to the territory. After landing in the Gaspé Peninsula in 1534, Cartier erected a cross on the shore and took possession of the land for France. During his voyage, and in another voyage the following year, Cartier explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence and sailed up the river to the indigenous villages of Stadacona (now Québec City) and Hochelaga (now Montréal).
France did not colonize the area immediately. Deeply embroiled in several wars during the 16th century, France ignored its new possession, leaving the St. Lawrence Valley to private traders, fishers, and whalers who visited but did not settle. France did not resume official exploration until the early 17th century, after its wars had ended. At the same time, large felt hats for men had become stylish in Europe and created a demand for beaver fur, which was abundant in Québec. France turned to its new territory to pursue the very profitable fur trade and ship the pelts back to Europe (see Fur Trade in North America).
France began to colonize the area, which it called New France, in 1608 when French explorer Samuel de Champlain established a trading post at present-day Québec City. Indigenous peoples brought their furs from the west to the trading post to trade with the French. The site of the post became the first permanent European settlement in Canada. Situated near a narrows of the St. Lawrence River, the settlement derived its name from the Algonquian word kebek, meaning “where the river narrows.” Champlain was appointed lieutenant of the viceroy of New France in 1612. To maintain the settlement and develop the fur trade, he entered into alliances with indigenous peoples, including the Huron, Algonquin, and Montagnais. He agreed that France would provide military support when they invaded the territory of their enemies, the Iroquois. Thus began a bitter conflict between the French and the Iroquois that resulted in nearly 100 years of sporadic warfare.
New France grew considerably during the remainder of the 17th century. Explorers expanded the territory from south of Hudson Bay in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south, and from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west.
|C1||The French Regime|
Although the profitable fur trade drew French adventurers to the interior, New France had difficulty attracting farmers willing to settle there. In order to attract colonists, Cardinal Richelieu, minister to King Louis XIII of France, organized the Company of One Hundred Associates in 1628. The French government empowered the company to grant seigneuries, or large estates in New France, to seigneurs, men who would act as agents to settle the land. Seigneurs would subdivide their land and find tenants to farm it in exchange for paying the seigneur a small fee. The seigneurial system is considered one of the most distinctive features of the old social order in Québec. The Company of One Hundred Associates was not as successful as it hoped and was unable to fulfill its promise to bring 4,000 settlers to New France within 15 years.
Before 1650 almost 75 percent of the immigrants who came to New France returned to France. After 1650 the fur trade expanded, and it enticed more than half of the immigrants to stay in the colony, some to work for fur merchants, but most to work as farmers. All but a few lived in the vicinity of Québec City or newly formed settlements at Trois-Rivières (1634) and Montréal (1642). New France grew rapidly after 1650. During the initial settlement of New France, the Roman Catholic Church became firmly entrenched in the colony because most of the French settlers were Catholic. The French monarchy also wished to promote the official religion of France in its North American colony and did not allow Protestants to settle in New France after 1627.
The new settlements quickly were caught up in wars with the Iroquois over control of the fur trade. As a result, King Louis XIV of France turned his attention to his struggling colony in North America. In 1663 he abolished the Company of One Hundred Associates and made New France a royal colony under control of the crown rather than the company. France dispatched its troops to quell the Iroquois and set up a new government in the colony. It placed the colony under the rule of a governor, who represented royal authority and commanded the military; an intendant, who oversaw the colony’s administration; and an appointed Sovereign Council, which served as adviser to the governor and as the highest court in the colony. The government did not include any representative institutions.
The first intendant, Jean Baptiste Talon, strongly encouraged agriculture and industry, including the construction of a shipyard and a tannery. He also took measures to increase immigration, using penalties and bonuses to encourage early marriages and settlement by members of the French troops at the end of their tour of duty. Single women, called filles du roi (daughters of the king), were brought over from France as brides for settlers, and the king paid their passage and dowries.
Despite its efforts to settle its colony, France still struggled in the fur trade. By the mid-1600s, the Iroquois had thoroughly disrupted France’s trade with the Hurons, and in 1670 England granted a trade monopoly for the area around Hudson Bay to the Hudson’s Bay Company. These two events forced the French to build an ever-expanding chain of forts in the west to hold onto their share of the fur trade. The 1670s and 1680s were years of constant peril for the colony. The Iroquois launched a series of destructive raids against French settlements. The best known was the Lachine Massacre of 1689, in which the Iroquois destroyed a settlement on Montréal Island. In 1701 France finally signed a peace settlement with the Iroquois.
Although France reached peace with the Iroquois, it began to compete with Britain for supremacy in North America in the late 1600s. Québec became a major theater for the Anglo-French rivalry because of its strategic position in North America. At the end of Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), France signed the Peace of Utrecht, in which it ceded vast territories to Britain. These included the Hudson Bay territory; Newfoundland; and Acadia, comprising present-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and parts of Québec and New England.
The next few decades were relatively peaceful, and New France developed rapidly. It increased its agriculture and industry, promoted shipbuilding, and established an iron mine and ironworks. Colonial towns became more important. However, the colony still had few new French immigrants; many French peasants were reluctant to emigrate, particularly because France had much more arable land than its North American colony. In addition, the French government stopped encouraging colonization in the late 1600s, partly because it was a financial drain and also because men were needed in France to fight in its European wars. Thus, New France barely had 50,000 people in 1754 when France and Britain again battled for control of North America in the French and Indian War.
Despite initial French victories, the war culminated in the siege and capture of Québec City by the British in 1759. British troops, led by General James Wolfe, defeated the troops of French General Louis Joseph Marquis de Montcalm de Saint-Véran in a decisive battle on the Plains of Abraham during which both generals lost their lives. Although the French won the Battle of Sainte-Foy the following spring, the British moved against Montréal. To avoid further bloodshed, the city capitulated, and the British military took control of New France in 1760. According to the capitulation acts, all inhabitants were given the right to return to France. Those who did were mostly important bureaucrats representing the king or merchants representing French companies.
|C2||The British Regime|
Under the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war in 1763, France officially ceded New France to Britain. The same year, Britain issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which created the province of Québec from the inhabited portion of New France located in the lower St. Lawrence Valley. Britain wanted to transform its new territory into a British colony. To do this, Britain gave instructions to its first governor, James Murray, to introduce British institutions, including an elected assembly that would be open only to Protestants. However, Murray recognized that the French-speaking majority would be barred from such an assembly, as almost all French-speakers in the colony were Roman Catholic. Murray refused to set up traditional British institutions that did not make sense in Québec, and he allowed certain French laws and customs in the courts. His actions appeased the agrarian French-speaking inhabitants and enraged British merchants, who demanded and obtained his recall. His successor, Sir Guy Carleton, followed the same policy. By the 1770s it was clear that Britain’s goal of transforming Québec into a British colony had failed, as the colony retained most of its French character.
Growing unrest in the 13 American colonies to the south convinced Britain to grant political concessions in Québec in order to ensure the loyalty of the French population. In 1774 British Parliament passed the Québec Act, which institutionalized many of the administrative policies of Murray and Carleton. The act reestablished the French legal code in civil matters; preserved the seigneurial system of landholding; guaranteed free practice of the Catholic faith; and removed restrictions prohibiting Catholics from holding public office. Although it reinforced Britain’s control over the colony, the people of Québec came to see the act as the Magna Carta of French-Canadian liberties.
The act also expanded Québec’s boundaries, restoring to the province the land between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers that the Royal Proclamation had set aside for indigenous peoples. The restored land was a valuable fur-trade area. When Britain granted the land to Québec, it angered American settlers, who saw it as rightfully theirs. The Québec Act was one of many actions of the British government that contributed to the American Revolution (1775-1783).
When the American Revolution began in 1775, American troops captured Montréal and laid siege to Québec City. They received little support from residents of Québec, and British forces drove them out the following year. When the American colonies secured independence in 1783, Québec experienced an influx of English-speaking immigrants. Refugees from the 13 colonies who were loyal to Britain, called United Empire Loyalists, fled to Québec. These Loyalists and other British settlers began petitioning for the repeal of the Québec Act, which did not provide the British legal code, an elected assembly, or the landholding system that they expected.
In response to these demands, Britain passed the Constitutional Act of 1791, which divided Québec into two colonies: the mostly British Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) and the mostly French Lower Canada (present-day Québec). Britain gave both colonies new constitutions and institutions that preserved their cultural heritages. Québec retained its seigneurial system, French civil law, and the rights of the Catholic Church. Both colonies were also given political structures that maintained strong imperial control. In Québec, the British government appointed executive and legislative councils from among the upper clergy, rich seigneurs, important merchants, and bureaucrats.
At the same time, each colony was given an elected legislative assembly. Although the assembly had little power compared to the executive and legislative councils, it quickly became a place of political and ethnic confrontation. Much of this unrest focused on the fact that the assembly, which had a French-speaking majority, had no control over government appointments to the predominantly British executive and legislative councils. Despite these conflicts, Lower Canada remained loyal to Britain during the War of 1812 when the United States declared war on Britain and invaded Upper Canada. The assembly voted to help fund the British military and to raise a militia to defend Canada.
From 1792 to 1840 Lower Canada changed economically. Although the province’s French-speaking majority remained largely agrarian, some people became involved in other activities, including the timber and transportation industries. Those people who feared these changes thought that farming, not trade and commerce, was conducive to maintaining traditional French Canadian values. At the same time, the number of English-speaking settlers rapidly increased, as many people emigrated from the British Isles. The Anglophone community began to have a larger role in the colony’s economy, and an active English-speaking community of merchants in Montréal, called the Montréalers, worked to increase trade. Determined that the St. Lawrence River should remain the major trade route into the interior of the continent, they dug canals, improved the harbor, and made major investments in milling and shipbuilding. As a result of their efforts, Montréal replaced Québec City as the area’s leading trade center.
Britain’s goal of transforming Québec into a British colony had failed, and the colony retained most of its French character. In 1834 the popular Patriote Party and its leader Louis Joseph Papineau led a battle in the elected legislative assembly to secure a greater voice for French Canadians in the government. The Patriotes sent Britain a list of demands, called the Ninety-two Resolutions, which included demands that the legislative council be elected and that the members of the executive council be chosen by the assembly. The Montréalers opposed the Patriotes’ actions because they feared that French Canadian influence would hinder economic development. The British government also opposed the demands because it was unwilling to surrender any power.
In 1837 Britain rejected the Patriotes’ demands, and a series of mass protests broke out that soon turned into armed rebellions, known as the Rebellions of 1837. In November 1837, after the government issued warrants to arrest Patriote leaders, some 800 armed Patriotes confronted British troops at Saint-Denis in the Richelieu Valley. The Patriotes won the battle, but they were defeated days later in nearby Saint-Charles and Saint-Eustache. Similar insurrections against colonial rule in Upper Canada were also crushed. Patriote leaders took refuge in the United States, where secret brotherhoods, called Frères Chasseurs (Hunter’s Lodges), were established.
After the rebellions, Britain proclaimed martial law in Québec. The constitution was suspended, and the legislative assembly was replaced by a special council that ruled from 1838 to 1841. Some 800 Patriotes were arrested. More than 100 were court-martialed, and nearly as many condemned to death. In the end, 12 Patriotes were hanged, and more than 50 were deported to Australia. The British government commissioned John George Lambton, 1st earl of Durham to serve as governor-general of Canada and to investigate the cause of the rebellions. In his 1839 report he recommended that Lower and Upper Canada be united to help assimilate French Canadians and to prevent future clashes between French and British interests. The report also recommended the establishment of self-government in Canada. Britain rejected that recommendation, but passed a bill uniting Upper and Lower Canada into one colony.
Britain’s Act of Union of 1840 united Lower and Upper Canada as the Province of Canada with a single government and changed the names of the sections to Canada East and Canada West, respectively. Although the mostly French-speaking Canada East had a larger population, English-speaking Canada West was granted an equal number of seats in the elected legislative assembly. As part of the attempt to assimilate French Canadians, English was made the only official language of the colony. A governor-general appointed by the monarch ruled the colony and was expected to seek the support of the elected legislative assembly (but did not require it). The colonists soon protested the governor-general’s power. Reformers in Canada East, led by Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, and in Canada West, led by Robert Baldwin, joined forces in demanding that the governor-general take the assembly’s advice when making official appointments. As a result of this alliance, the British government capitulated. Governor-General Lord Elgin was dispatched to Canada with orders to appoint government officials who were supported by the majority party in the legislative assembly and to approve their policies. Thus, in 1848 responsible government was finally achieved.
With responsible government, French Canadians had the voting power to ensure that French institutions and traditions would continue. The legislative assembly recognized the French language and the influence of the Catholic Church in education and social policies. Thus, uniting Upper and Lower Canada failed to assimilate French Canadians and actually helped preserve French and British entities, each with their own laws, institutions, and language. However, it became increasingly difficult to govern these two entities under one legislature. To solve this problem, a federal system was proposed, with separate governments for each province and a central government responsible for areas of common interest. In order to better promote economic development and military defense, leaders from Canada East and Canada West supported a larger federation of all of Britain’s North American colonies. In 1867 the British Parliament passed the British North America Act (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867), which created a federation known as the Dominion of Canada. The federation comprised four provinces: Québec (formerly Canada East), Ontario (formerly Canada West), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
Confederation, as the creation of Canada was known, gave Québec and the other provinces a centralized government to control, among other things, banking, finance, transportation, and defense. French Canadian political leaders, including Sir George-Étienne Cartier, were adamant that provincial authority, as written into the new constitution, be strong enough to ensure that Québec could promote its cultural distinctiveness. Therefore, the province was given exclusive control over institutions such as education and civil law. The French language was also safeguarded; according to the British North America Act, either French or English could be used in the Parliament of Canada, in the legislature of Québec, and in any court of Canada. Although Confederation established French Canadians as a minority in an increasingly English-speaking nation, it also gave them a provincial homeland, Québec, and the right to control their own development. French Canadian nationalism was now a permanent feature in the political arena. As a result, French Canadian autonomy became a divisive issue that threatened Canada’s future.
During the years immediately following Confederation, Québec maintained its rural character, although it faced new challenges. As manufacturing expanded and industrial production became more mechanized, the demand for factory workers increased. Large numbers of Québec residents, in search of economic opportunities, left the countryside for the cities on the St. Lawrence River and the factory towns of New England.
The Catholic Church feared that French Canadian culture, language, and religion would be subsumed under this new capitalist, urban industrial society, which it viewed as predominantly British. The church equated French Canadian values with traditional Catholic values. It rejected urbanization and industrialization as promoting individual interests over community and family ties and materialist desires over religious values. As a result, Québec’s religious elite responded by encouraging agriculture, believing it to be the only area of the economy not under British control. Rural settlement was promoted, mainly in the Canadian Shield where French Canadians could best be protected from urban temptations. Many people went to these agricultural frontiers. However, even in remote areas, agrarian life was challenged by opportunities in forestry and developing pulp and paper industries. By the early 20th century, large mechanized enterprises such as textile and shoe factories had become an important sector in Québec’s economy.
After Confederation, the Catholic Church grew enormously in size and power in Québec. It gained many privileges during the second half of the 19th century, including control over education, health services, and charitable institutions. New dioceses were established across the province, and new parishes were created, greatly expanding the church’s presence and influence in private as well as public life.
In 1885 an event occurred that divided British and French Canadians. Louis Riel, the Western Canadian leader of the Métis, a people of mixed indigenous and European (mainly French) ancestry, was hanged following the Northwest Rebellion, an armed resistance against Canadian federal authorities. To British Canadians, Riel was a rebel and a murderer. To French Canadians he was the defender of a small, oppressed community of French descent, whose way of life was being threatened by new British settlements in the west. The Riel case served as the rallying cry for Liberal leader Honoré Mercier in the 1886 provincial election. When he became Québec’s premier, provincial rights and autonomy became the creed of French Canadian nationalists.
|E||The 20th Century|
At the beginning of the 20th century, Québec industrialized rapidly. Montréal became a leading manufacturing center, and Québec City became an important center for textile, clothing, leather, and shoe factories. Textile towns, such as Valleyfield, Saint-Jérôme, and Sherbrooke, grew in population. Most of this development was a result of cheap labor, as large numbers of people quit agriculture and moved to the cities. By 1911 almost half the province’s population lived in urban areas. Most new industries followed a pattern of English-speaking managers supervising French-speaking workers; this pattern inflamed nationalist sentiment.
At Confederation, Québec became part of an expanding Canadian state and British Empire. As new, predominantly English-speaking provinces joined Canada, and as Britain sought to expand its power abroad, Québec felt that it was an increasingly isolated French province within a British federation. While many English-speaking Canadians offered wholehearted economic and military support to Britain during the Boer War (1899-1902) in southern Africa and during World War I (1914-1918), French Canadians were less enthusiastic about participating in what they viewed as Britain’s imperialist crusades. When Canadian Parliament, led by the Conservative Party, implemented conscription (compulsory military service) in late 1917, riots occurred in Montréal and Québec City. Only 60 percent of drafted men in Québec reported for duty. At the next federal election, held in December, Québec voted against the Conservatives.
Québec continued to industrialize rapidly during the 1920s. The Liberal Party, which controlled the Québec government until the mid-1930s, promoted economic expansion and big business, partly as a means to reduce immigration to the United States. They made strong efforts to attract U.S. capital and encouraged exploitation of the province’s natural resources, particularly its hydroelectric potential, forests, and minerals.
The Great Depression had severe effects on the Québec economy. Unemployment, bankruptcies, social distress, and hunger were common in the province. Authorities responded with provincial programs that encouraged people to move to rural areas and take up farming. In the mid-1930s Maurice L. Duplessis, the former head of the Conservative Party and leader of the new Union Nationale political party, came to power in Québec.
Known as Le Chef (The Chief) to his followers, Duplessis and his Union Nationale ruled Québec’s government from 1936 to 1939. He was a firm believer in maintaining traditional agrarian values, and he built his political base from rural communities. He encouraged programs such as farm credit, rural electrification, and subsidies to those who had resettled in rural areas. Numerous unemployed urban workers participated in the rural resettlement programs, with many sent to Abitibi in 1937 and 1938. Duplessis capitalized on rural suspicions of urban life and fear of communism to pass antilabor bills and to act against unions, political groups, and religious minorities such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In 1939 Duplessis’s government was defeated by the Liberals, despite arguing against conscription during World War II (1939-1945). The new premier, Adélard Godbout, initiated many reforms that had long been demanded, such as women’s suffrage, mandatory schooling, and the creation of Hydro-Québec, a publicly owned hydroelectric utility. Duplessis was reelected in the 1944 election, largely because of the conscription issue. In 1954 he established a provincial income tax to enable future finance ministers revenue to shape independent provincial policies. Duplessis encouraged foreign investment, had excellent relations with the Catholic Church and the English-speaking business community, and maintained antilabor attitudes.
Duplessis presided over a period of postwar economic prosperity. The rebuilding of Europe after the war and the growing market for consumer goods created strong demands for Québec’s natural resources. This demand led to the rapid development of mining, particularly of precious metals and iron ore, in Abitibi, Shefferville, and along the north coast. Québec also continued to urbanize. Its urban, industrial society was at odds with the traditionalism and church control that characterized the province under Duplessis’s government. During the Duplessis tenure, education was a privilege for the elite and was aimed more at training doctors, nuns, and priests than engineers, scientists, business leaders, and other professionals needed for a modern economy. Although trade unions existed, they were largely Catholic and conservative. Québec needed social reforms, but most would come only after Duplessis’s death in 1959.
From 1960 to 1966 Québec underwent a period of major social change known as the Quiet Revolution. Among the most important trends were the decline of the Catholic Church and the growing secularization of Québec society. Also significant were the greatly increased role of the government in economic, social, and cultural development and the emergence of a new nationalism that aimed to improve the economic position of French-speakers in Québec and to protect their cultural heritage.
Using the slogan Maîtres chez nous (Masters in our own house), Jean Lesage and the Liberal Party came to power in 1960. Lesage and his government were determined that French Canadians break through the economic stronghold held by English-speakers in the province. They turned to the one tool controlled by the French majority, the provincial government. The Lesage government quickly implemented several reforms to advance industrialization in Québec and to put the province’s institutions in step with the scientific and technological advances of the 20th century.
The government brought the electricity sector under provincial control, incorporating private hydroelectric facilities into Hydro-Québec, which became a symbol of Québec’s success. It also launched large hydroelectric projects. Along with a ministry of cultural affairs, the government created a ministry of education which took control of education from the church. The government also took over the church’s traditional role as provider of health and social services, and instituted a new, more generous system. Finally the government created a large civil service to manage these changes. The service sector became a key element in the Québec economy. Over time, a strong French Canadian middle class emerged in finance, commerce, engineering, and communications. Montréal became a vast metropolitan area, hosting the World’s Fair Expo ’67 and later the Summer Olympic Games in 1976.
As Québec rapidly changed during this time, the Québécois, as French-speaking Québec residents became known, gained a new sense of identity. Even though the Liberals narrowly lost the 1966 provincial elections to the Union Nationale, Premier Daniel Johnson continued with the same policies. However, tensions between the federal and provincial governments regarding Québec’s place in the federation increased. Québec signed various cultural and financial agreements with France, and in 1967 French president Charles de Gaulle visited Québec. While speaking in Montréal, de Gaulle invoked the slogan Vive le Québec libre! (Long live free Québec!), which incensed the federal government and inflamed the independence movement in Québec. Groups that advocated Québec’s separation from Canada, which had begun forming in the early 1960s, quickly transformed into political parties. In 1968 two of these movements united to form the Parti Québécois (PQ) under the leadership of René Lévesque. That same year, Pierre Trudeau became Canada’s fourth prime minister from Québec.
While Trudeau, a staunch federalist, was arguing in favor of a Canadian union with equal rights for French- and English-speakers, Lévesque was seeking to make Québec politically independent. If the Parti Québecois was elected, Lévesque promised to hold a provincial referendum on sovereignty-association, the idea that Québec should become politically independent but retain economic ties to Canada. Although he made his party agree to fulfill this goal through democratic steps, some extremist groups were less patient and engaged in terrorist actions, including planting bombs in Montréal. In 1970, in what became known as the October Crisis, members of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ; Québec Liberation Front) kidnapped a British trade commissioner, James Cross, and then kidnapped and killed the Québec minister of labor, Pierre Laporte. At the request of Québec’s new Liberal premier, Robert Bourassa, the federal government imposed martial law in the province; this decision caused much controversy.
Nationalist sentiment continued to grow and, in 1974, Bourassa’s government responded by making French Québec’s only official language. This legislation (Bill 22) failed to satisfy nationalist groups, however, who felt it did not go far enough in enforcing the use of French. Anglophones and other ethnic groups, on the other hand, felt that the law violated their constitutional language rights and responded by withholding their traditional support for the Liberals in the 1976 provincial election.
During this same time period, the province was also coping with controversy surrounding the rights of its indigenous peoples. Since the late 1950s economic developments in the Canadian Shield had been changing conditions in aboriginal homelands. In 1971 Bourassa announced the James Bay Project, a huge hydroelectric power development in northern Québec. The region’s Cree and Inuit nations feared that the project would flood their traditional hunting and fishing grounds, so they took the Québec government to court to stop the project. They claimed aboriginal title (Indian land ownership in the absence of a treaty). In 1975 the parties signed the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, which was a landmark agreement. In return for large financial compensation and the right of self-government, the indigenous groups surrendered their claims to the territory. Nonetheless, there continued to be contention over future developments at James Bay.
In 1976, riding the growing wave of nationalist sentiment, Lévesque’s Parti Québécois swept the provincial elections. In 1977 the government adopted the controversial Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101. The law reasserted the status of French as Québec’s official language and, more significantly, tightly restricted the use of English in the province. Bill 101 declared the French language to be the only official language of the government, the legislature, and the courts; it also made French the predominant language of the workplace and, with a few exceptions, the only language allowed on signs and billboards. The act also severely restricted access to English-language schools; one provision required children of parents who had been educated outside Québec to attend French-language schools, igniting an uproar among the province’s English-speaking and immigrant populations. This provision was overturned a few years later by the Supreme Court of Canada. In the wake of Bill 101, many Anglophones left Québec.
Four years later, in 1980, Lévesque fulfilled his campaign promise and held a referendum proposing that his government be granted a mandate to negotiate with Canada for sovereignty-association. Voters rejected his proposal but elected him premier again in 1981. The national debate over Québec’s status in the union continued, and, under Prime Minister Trudeau, the federal government drafted constitutional reforms. In 1982 the British North America Act was patriated, or brought under complete Canadian control (until then, the British government had some authority over Canada’s constitution). The government also added a charter of individual rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a new procedure that was intended to make it easier to pass constitutional amendments.
Québec responded negatively to the new constitution. It wanted the new constitution to recognize and preserve the province’s unique culture. Québec feared that the constitution would enable the courts to overrule provincial laws protecting the French language, and it was dissatisfied with the degree of provincial autonomy it allowed. For example, prior to the new constitution, unanimous consent from the provinces was required to amend the constitution. This allowed Québec or any other province to have veto power over any amendment. In the new constitution, however, an amendment would pass if seven provinces representing at least 50 percent of the population supported it. Québec refused to sign the constitution, the only province to do so.
The federal government made two subsequent attempts to end the constitutional crisis—the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord. In 1984 newly elected Prime Minister Brian Mulroney vowed to amend the constitution to “bring Québec back to the fold.” In 1986 Bourassa, once again the premier of Québec, outlined the conditions under which the province would ratify the constitution. In addition to expanding the scope of provincial jurisdiction and various other demands, Bourassa asserted that the constitution must recognize Québec as a “distinct society.” The Meech Lake Accord required approval by the federal Parliament and all ten provincial legislatures within three years. A large proportion of Canada’s English-speaking population opposed the agreement, particularly the “distinct society” clause that was seen as giving preferential treatment to Québec. However, eight provinces, including Québec, ratified the accord. Still the accord died in 1990, when Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba did not approve it. Following this defeat, support for Québec sovereignty reached new heights. Mulroney’s government continued to seek accommodations, which resulted in the Charlottetown Accord. Put to the people in a national referendum in October 1992, this accord was also defeated.
In 1994 the Parti Québécois regained control of the provincial government, and Jacques Parizeau became premier. In 1995 the government held a second referendum on secession from Canada. Once again, the people of Québec defeated the referendum, although by just over a 1 percent margin. Following the failed referendum, Parizeau resigned and was replaced as premier in January 1996 by Lucien Bouchard, founder of the national Bloc Québécois.
That same year, the Canadian government asked the Supreme Court of Canada for an advisory opinion on whether Québec could secede from Canada. The court issued its opinion in 1998, stating that Québec does not have the right to secede on its own. However, the court also stated that if a “clear majority” of Québec residents voted to secede on a “clear question,” Canada would have to amend its constitution and negotiate the terms of secession. In 2000 the federal parliament passed the so-called clarity law, a measure giving the federal House of Commons the authority to determine what is a clear referendum question and what constitutes a clear majority. Under the law, the federal government is obliged to begin negotiations on Quebec’s secession if both the referendum question and majority are deemed clear.
In the November 1998 provincial election, the Parti Québécois faced the Québec Liberal Party, under the new leadership of Jean Charest. Although the PQ won the majority of seats in the National Assembly, the election was extremely close. Debates during the campaign indicated that Québec residents were more concerned with economic problems—such as the provincial deficit, high unemployment, and government cutbacks to education and health and social services—than with constitutional matters.
In 2001 Bouchard resigned as premier and as leader of the PQ after failing to invigorate the drive toward an independent Québec. He was succeeded in both roles by Québec’s deputy premier Bernard Landry, a longtime advocate of secession. In 2003 Charest’s Liberals defeated the PQ, making him the new premier of Québec. This victory was seen as an indication that secession was no longer a main priority for the province and its citizens.
In March 2007 provincial elections, the Liberals made the strongest showing, taking 48 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly. The Action Démocratique du Québec stunned political observers and the party’s own leadership with the second-strongest showing, winning 41 seats, up from five in the previous assembly. The party’s leader, Mario Dumont, had predicted a gain of ten seats. The Parti Québécois, now under the leadership of André Boisclair, came in third with 36 seats. The results of the election seemed to be another indication that Québec voters were tiring of the independence movement.
At the beginning of the 21st century Québec faced many challenges. Among them were improving the province’s economic situation, deciding the future of its social programs, and settling the constitutional and linguistic problems that divide the province and the rest of Canada.