Quebec ( or ; ) is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province that has a predominantly French-speaking population, and the only one to have French as its sole provincial official language.
Quebec is Canada's largest province by area and its second-largest administrative division; only the territory of Nunavut is larger. It is bordered to the west by the province of Ontario, James Bay, and Hudson Bay; to the north by Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay; to the east by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador; it is bordered on the south by the province of New Brunswick and the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. It also shares maritime borders with Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.
Quebec is Canada's second most populous province, after Ontario. Most inhabitants live in urban areas near the Saint Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City, the capital. Approximately a quarter of Quebec residents live in the Greater Montreal Area, including the Island of Montreal. English-speaking communities and English-language institutions are concentrated in the west of the island of Montreal but are also significantly present in the Outaouais, Eastern Townships, and Gaspé regions. The Nord-du-Québec region, occupying the northern half of the province, is sparsely populated and inhabited primarily by Aboriginal peoples.
Quebec independence debates have played a large role in the politics of the province. Parti Québécois governments held referendums on sovereignty in 1980 and 1995; both were voted down by voters, the latter defeated by a very narrow margin. Analysis of regional results show that in both referendums, a majority of francophones voted 'Yes'. In 2006, the House of Commons of Canada passed a symbolic motion recognizing the "Québécois as a nation within a united Canada."
While the province's substantial natural resources have long been the mainstay of its economy, sectors of the knowledge economy such as aerospace, information and communication technologies, biotechnology, and the pharmaceutical industry also play leading roles. These many industries have all contributed to helping Quebec become a very economically influential province within Canada, second only to Ontario in economic output.
Indigenous peoples and European exploration
At the time of first European contact and later colonization, Algonquian, Iroquois and Inuit nations controlled what is now Quebec. Their lifestyles and cultures reflected the land on which they lived. Algonquians organized into seven political entities lived nomadic lives based on hunting, gathering, and fishing in the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield: (James Bay Cree, Innu, Algonquins) and Appalachian Mountains (Mi'kmaq, Abenaki). St. Lawrence Iroquoians, a branch of the Iroquois, lived more settled lives, growing corn, beans and squash in the fertile soils of the St. Lawrence Valley. They appear to have been later supplanted by the Mohawk nation. The Inuit continue to fish and hunt whale and seal in the harsh Arctic climate along the coasts of Hudson and Ungava Bay. These people traded fur and food and sometimes warred with each other.
Around 1522–1523, the Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano persuaded King Francis I of France to commission an expedition to find a western route to Cathay (China). In 1534, Jacques Cartier planted a cross in the Gaspé Peninsula and claimed the land in the name of King Francis I. It was the first province of New France. However, initial French attempts at settling the region met with failure. French fishing fleets, however, continued to sail to the Atlantic coast and into the St. Lawrence River, making alliances with First Nations that would become important once France began to occupy the land.
Samuel de Champlain was part of a 1603 expedition from France that travelled In 1608, he returned as head of an exploration party and founded Quebec City with the intention of making the area part of the French colonial empire. Champlain's Habitation de Québec, built as a permanent fur trading outpost, was where he would forge a trading, and ultimately a military alliance, with the Algonquin and Huron nations. First Nations traded their furs for many French goods such as metal objects, guns, alcohol, and clothing.
Coureurs des bois, voyageurs and Catholic missionaries used river canoes to explore the interior of the North American continent. They establishing fur trading forts on the Great Lakes (Étienne Brûlé 1615), Hudson Bay (Radisson and Groseilliers 1659–60), Ohio River and Mississippi River (La Salle 1682), as well as the Saskatchewan River and Missouri River (de la Verendrye 1734–1738).
After 1627, King Louis XIII of France allowed the Company of New France to introduced the seigneurial system and forbade settlement in New France by anyone other than Roman Catholics. New France became a Royal Province in 1663 under King Louis XIV of France with a Sovereign Council that included intendant Jean Talon. The population grew slowly under French rule, thus remained relatively low as growth was largely achieved through natural births, rather than by immigration. To encourage population growth and to redress the severe imbalance between single men and women, King Louis XIV sponsored the passage of approximately 800 young French women (known as les filles du roi) to the colony. Most of the French were farmers ("Canadiens" or "Habitants"), and the rate of population growth among the settlers themselves was very high.
Seven Years' War and capitulation of New France
Authorities in New France became more aggressive in their efforts to expel British traders and colonists from the Ohio Valley. They began construction of a series of fortifications to protect the area. In 1754, George Washington launched a surprise attack on a group of Canadien soldiers sleeping in the early morning hours. It came at a time when no declaration of war had been issued by either country. This frontier aggression known as the Jumonville affair set the stage for the French and Indian War (a US designation; in Canada it is usually referred to as the Seven Years' War, although French Canadians often call it La guerre de la Conquête ["The War of Conquest"]) in North America. By 1756, France and Britain were battling the Seven Years' War worldwide. In 1758, the British mounted an attack on New France by sea and took the French fort at Louisbourg.
On September 13, 1759, General James Wolfe defeated General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City. With the exception of the small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, located off the coast of Newfoundland, France ceded its North American possessions to Great Britain through the Treaty of Paris (1763) in favour of gaining the island of Guadeloupe for its then-lucrative sugar cane industry. The British Royal Proclamation of 1763 renamed Canada (part of New France) as the Province of Quebec.
With unrest growing in the colonies to the south, which would one day grow into the American Revolution, the British were worried that the French-speaking Canadians might also support the growing rebellion. At that time, French-speaking Canadians formed the vast majority of the population of the province of Quebec (more than 99%) and British immigration was not going well. To secure the allegiance of the approximately 90,000 French-speaking Canadians to the British crown, first Governor James Murray and later Governor Guy Carleton promoted the need for change. There was also a need to compromise between the conflicting demands of the French-speaking Canadian subjects and those of newly arrived British subjects. These efforts by the colonial governors eventually resulted in enactment of the Quebec Act of 1774.
The Quebec Act provided the people of Quebec their first Charter of Rights and paved the way to later official recognition of the French language and French culture. The act also allowed Canadiens to maintain French civil law and sanctioned freedom of religion, allowing the Roman Catholic Church to remain, one of the first cases in history of state-sanctioned freedom of religious practice.
Effects of the American Revolution
Although the Quebec Act was unrelated to the events in Boston of 1773, and was not regarded as one of the Coercive Acts, the timing of its passage led British colonists to the south to believe that it was part of the program to punish them. The Quebec Act offended a variety of interest groups in the British colonies. Land speculators and settlers objected to the transfer of western lands previously claimed by the colonies to a non-representative government. Many feared the establishment of Catholicism in Quebec, and that the French Canadians were being courted to help oppress British Americans.
On June 27, 1775, General George Washington decided to attempt an invasion of Canada by the American Continental Army to wrest Quebec and the St. Lawrence River from the British. the invasion failed when British reinforcements came down the St. Lawrence in May 1776 and the Battle of Trois-Rivières turned into a disaster for the Americans. The army withdrew to Ticonderoga. Although some help was given to the Americans by the locals, Governor Carleton punished American sympathizers and public support of the American cause came to an end. In 1778, Frederick Haldimand took over for Guy Carleton as governor of Quebec.
The arrival of 10,000 Loyalists at Quebec in 1784 destroyed the political balance that Haldimand (and Carleton before him) had worked so hard to achieve. The swelling numbers of English encouraged them to make greater demands for recognition with the colonial government. To restore stability to his largest remaining North American colony, King George III sent Carleton back to Quebec to remedy the situation.
In ten years, Quebec had undergone a dramatic change. What worked for Carleton in 1774 was not likely to succeed in 1784. Specifically, there was no possibility of restoring the previous political balance – there were simply too many English people unwilling to reach a compromise with the 145,000 Canadiens or their colonial governor. The situation called for a more creative approach to problem solving.
Separation of the Province of Quebec
Loyalists soon petitioned the government to be allowed to use the British legal system they were used to in the American colonies. The creation of Upper and Lower Canada in 1791 allowed most Loyalists to live under British laws and institutions, while the French-speaking population of Lower Canada could maintain their familiar French civil law and the Catholic religion. Therefore, Governor Haldimand (at the suggestion of Carleton) drew Loyalists away from Quebec City and Montreal by offering free land on the northern shore of Lake Ontario to anyone willing to swear allegiance to George III. The Loyalists were thus given land grants of per person. Basically, this approach was designed with the intent of keeping French and English as far apart as possible. Therefore, after the separation of the Province of Quebec, Lower Canada and Upper Canada were formed, each with its own government.
Patriotes' Rebellion in Lower Canada
In 1837, residents of Lower Canada – led by Louis-Joseph Papineau and Robert Nelson – formed an armed resistance group to seek an end to the unilateral control of the British governors. They made a Declaration of Rights with equality for all citizens without discrimination and a Declaration of Independence of Lower-Canada in 1838. Their actions resulted in rebellions in both Lower and Upper Canada. An unprepared British Army had to raise militia force; the rebel forces scored a victory in Saint-Denis but were soon defeated.
After the rebellions, Lord Durham was asked to undertake a study and prepare a report on the matter and to offer a solution for the British Parliament to assess. Following Durham's report, the British government merged the two colonial provinces into one Province of Canada in 1840 with the Act of Union. The two colonies remained distinct in administration, election, and law.
In 1848, Baldwin and LaFontaine, allies and leaders of the Reformist party, were asked by Lord Elgin to form an administration together under the new policy of responsible government. The French language subsequently regained legal status in the Legislature.
In the 1860s, the delegates from the colonies of British North America (Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland) met in a series of conferences to discuss self-governing status for a new confederation. The first Charlottetown Conference took place in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, followed by the Quebec Conference in Quebec City which led to a delegation going to London, Britain, to put forth a proposal for a national union.
As a result of those deliberations, in 1867 the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the British North America Acts, providing for the Confederation of most of these provinces. The former Province of Canada was divided into its two previous parts as the provinces of Ontario (Upper Canada) and Quebec (Lower Canada). New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined Ontario and Quebec in the new Dominion of Canada. The other provinces then joined the Confederation, one after the other: Manitoba and the Northwest Territories in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, Prince Edward Island in 1873, Yukon in 1898, Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905, Newfoundland in 1949 and finally Nunavut in 1999.
World War I and World War II
When Great Britain declared war on August 4, 1914, Canada was automatically involved as a dominion. About 6,000 volunteers from Quebec participated on the European front. Although reaction to conscription was favourable in English Canada the idea was deeply unpopular in Quebec. The Conscription Crisis of 1917 did much to highlight the divisions between French and English-speaking Canadians in Canada.
During World War II, the participation of Quebec was more important but led to the Conscription Crisis of 1944 and opposition. Many Quebecers fought against the axis power between 1939 to 1945 with the involvement of many francophone regiments such as Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, le Régiment de la Chaudière and many more.
The conservative government of Maurice Duplessis and his Union Nationale dominated Quebec politics from 1944 to 1959 with the support of the Catholic Church. Pierre Trudeau and other liberals formed an intellectual opposition to Duplessis's regime, setting the groundwork for the Quiet Revolution under Jean Lesage's Liberals. The Quiet Revolution was a period of dramatic social and political change that saw the decline of Anglo supremacy in the Quebec economy, the decline of the Roman Catholic Church's influence, the formation of hydroelectric companies under Hydro-Québec and the emergence of a pro-sovereignty movement under former Liberal minister René Lévesque.
Beginning in 1963, a paramilitary group that became known as the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) launched a decade-long series of propaganda and terrorism that included bombings, robberies and attacks directed primarily at English institutions, resulting in at least five deaths. In 1970, their activities culminated in events referred to as the October Crisis when James Cross, the British trade commissioner to Canada, was kidnapped along with Pierre Laporte, a provincial minister and Vice-Premier. Laporte was strangled with his own rosary beads a few days later. In their published Manifesto, the militants stated: "In the coming year Bourassa will have to face reality; 100,000 revolutionary workers, armed and organized." At the request of Premier Robert Bourassa, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act.
Parti Québécois and national unity
In 1977, the newly elected Parti Québécois government of René Lévesque introduced the Charter of the French Language. Often known as Bill 101, it defined French as the only official language of Quebec in areas of provincial jurisdiction.
Lévesque and his party had run in the 1970 and 1973 Quebec elections under a platform of separating Quebec from the rest of Canada. The party failed to win control of Quebec's National Assembly both times – though its share of the vote increased from 23 percent to 30 percent – and Lévesque was defeated both times in the riding he contested. In the 1976 election, he softened his message by promising a referendum (plebiscite) on sovereignty-association rather than outright separation, by which Quebec would have independence in most government functions but share some other ones, such as a common currency, with Canada. On November 15, 1976, Lévesque and the Parti Québécois won control of the provincial government for the first time. The question of sovereignty-association was placed before the voters in the 1980 Quebec referendum. During the campaign, Pierre Trudeau promised that a vote for the "no" side was a vote for reforming Canada. Trudeau advocated the patriation of Canada's Constitution from the United Kingdom. The existing constitutional document, the British North America Act, could only be amended by the United Kingdom Parliament upon a request by the Canadian parliament. Sixty percent of the Quebec electorate voted against the proposition for sovereignty-association. Polls showed that the overwhelming majority of English and immigrant Quebecers voted against, and that French Quebecers were almost equally divided, with older voters less in favour and younger voters more in favour. After his loss in the referendum, Lévesque went back to Ottawa to start negotiating a new constitution with Trudeau, his minister of Justice Jean Chrétien and the nine other provincial premiers. Lévesque insisted Quebec be able to veto any future constitutional amendments. The negotiations quickly reached a stand-still. Quebec is the only province not to have assented to the patriation of the Canadian constitution in 1982.
In subsequent years, two attempts were made to gain Quebec's approval of the constitution. The first was the Meech Lake Accord of 1987, which was finally abandoned in 1990 when the province of Manitoba did not pass it within the established deadline. (Newfoundland premier Clyde Wells had expressed his opposition to the accord, but, with the failure in Manitoba, the vote for or against Meech never took place in his province.) This led to the formation of the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois party in Ottawa under the leadership of Lucien Bouchard, who had resigned from the federal cabinet. The second attempt, the Charlottetown Accord of 1992, also failed to gain traction. This result caused a split in the Quebec Liberal Party that led to the formation of the new Action démocratique (Democratic Action) party led by Mario Dumont and Jean Allaire.
On October 30, 1995, with the Parti Québécois back in power since 1994, a second referendum on sovereignty took place. This time, it was rejected by a slim majority (50.6 percent NO to 49.4 percent YES).
Statut particulier ("special status")
Given the province's heritage and the preponderance of French (unique among the Canadian provinces), there has been debate in Canada regarding the unique status (statut particulier) of Quebec and its people, wholly or partially. Prior attempts to amend the Canadian constitution to acknowledge Quebec as a 'distinct society' – referring to the province's uniqueness within Canada regarding law, language, and culture – have been unsuccessful; however, the federal government under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien would later endorse recognition of Quebec as a distinct society.
On October 30, 2003, the National Assembly of Quebec voted unanimously to affirm "that the people of Québec form a nation." On November 27, 2006, the House of Commons passed a symbolic motion moved by Prime Minister Stephen Harper declaring "that this House recognize that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada." However, there is considerable debate and uncertainty over what this means.
How places in Canada are organized
Links and Sources