Quebec Cultural and Political Trends

Figure 1.--

Americans surprisingly know very little about Canada beyond polar bears and igloos. This lack of knowledge is particularly true of French speaking Quebec. A French Canadian reader has provided us some fascinating information about culture and political trends in Quebec.

Quebec Before 1960

Americans have no idea how backward Québec was before 1960. We were near an Amish people. I like Amish convictions and I am not far from them on many critics over our so-called advance in social and political way of life. But as a people, we have the right to chose and at that time we didn't. Duplessiss was against any religious dissidence (Jeovah's witnesses) and against trade unions (The Asbestos Riots). There was an elite like those mums seeking for more cultural enrichment for their children which HBC has archived ob the drama page. My own mother made hats like those the ladies in the studio are wearing.

Influences (1939-60)

A range of influences percolated in Quebec that caused major cultural changes during and after World War II. Canada loyally enterd the War to support Britain and played an important role in the War. Canadian troops were the first to reach Britain after the declaration of War. Canadians played a major role in the Liberation of France fighting with the British Army. While the Canadian Army in Europe was mostly English-speaking Canadians, there were many French Candians who had their visited Fance after the War. At home, many Canadian women like American women had worked in the war industries. Canadian industry was conveted to war production. With men goung into the service, labor was in short supply and women filled that gap. After World War II many French Canadian fashion designers began to study the newest development of Christian Dior's revolution in "haute couture". This expressed the end of restriction in France and a the traditional way of living before the War for women who stayed more at home and care for the children. The War was followed by the "baby boom" and this new generation was exposed to the mass media including television. This significantly diluted the Catholic Church's influence. Quebec people as the Church's influence declines were more to European values, especially French culture, largely because of linguistic afinities.

Independence Movement (1960s)

France after World War II was changing, just at the time when contacts with French Canadians were expanding. The Church in France had been disgraced by the level of cooperation with Vichy. The French Government after World War II attempted to reimpose colonial rule, but defeat in first Vietnam and then Algeria forced changes in both government and policy. There had been a strong opposition in France to colonialism, even before military defeats, but the loss of Algeria un particular led France to begin a process of decolonization in the rest of its African empire. This no doubt raised the question of independence among many Quebec people, especially the younger generation. where the Queen came in Québec, people showed their back to her (1963). This was her last visit to Quebec. The Quebec independence movement attracted internatiinal attention when President de Gaulle visited Canada which at the time celebrating the national centennial with a world's fair--Expo '67. Degualle spoke to a large group from a balcony at Montreal's city hall (July 24, 1967). Here when concluding his remarks, exclaimed "Vive le Québec!" (Long live Quebec!) and then added, "Vive le Québec libre!" (Long live free Québec!). The crowd reacted enthusiastically. The rest of Canada was outraged. De Gaulle quietly left Canada the following day without the planned meeting with government officials in Ottawa as scheduled. Most Quebecers see it as a watershed event in the independence movement.

Turmoil in Quebec

Until 1970 with the rape of cross and laporte and the killing of the lather, Québec was in violent turmoil which only ended with the army occupation of Québec. There was at that time a large consensus on "what Québec wants" from the Québec side. It was clear that if Québec couldn't get any control on immigration, language and schools, assimilation could be the end of our distinct status given with the Act of British America (1867). I am not too much excited to talk about "Les troubles d'octobre". It is a controversial issue here after more than 30 years. Anyway, A friend of mine was imprisoned without any justification, just because he helped financially some people under arrest. There was no torture, but fear and menaces were present in jail. On today, we consider that period with this Shakespeare quote: "Much ado about nothing".

Law 101

That is why Québec massively voted for a political party committed to independence--the "Parti Québécois" (1976). The Quebec Parliament passed Law 101 on the predominance of French in Québec (197?). Curiously peace came again. Quebec implement a range of policies designed to ensure that the French language and Quebec culture would remain the primary influences in the province. Many of the new policies focused on language and education.

Québec and Canada

Québec didn't made the step toward independence that many expected. There were many reasons for this. At that time, there was many far-leftists like "En lutte" involved in the independence movement. They fought ian underground campaign to install a communist party in Québec. Similar efforts were taking place in South America at the time. The Québec population at large voted against inependance in 1980 not because they were against "séparation" from the rest of Canada but because they feared the far left. The "Parti Québécois" led by René Levesque was opposed to these underground parties and won the 1981 elections.


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Created: 7:31 PM 3/24/2005
Last updated: 6:09 PM 11/5/2005