By Abe McClenny
H History 3rd
A. Plan of the Investigation
To what extent did economics in Quebec lead to Québécois nationalism in the late 20th century? To assess the degree to which economics led to the unification of the French-Canadians, this investigation focuses on the events leading up to the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty. The differences between the French and English Canadians, and the connections between their contrasting economies and the Québécois’s demand for reform are explored. The political aspects of Quebec nationalism, as well as events after the 1995 referendum are not assessed in this investigation.
B. Summary of Evidence
“The history of the French in North America is the story of ceaseless struggle of a minority group to maintain its culture in the face of...pressures to conform to the dominant civilization of other ethnic groups and cultures.” For hundreds of years, Canada’s geography and religion had been divided. Most of Quebec’s inhabitants were French speaking Catholics, while other parts of the nation were Protestant English speakers. In the same way, the economic lives of French-Canadians and English-Canadians were divided. However, though Quebec was originally a French colony, its economy was soon overrun by English speakers from the United States and England. When Quebec was taken over by England in 1763, it was “North America’s most stable and archaic rural society.” To the Québécois, “foreigner and exploiter were synonymous,” and they wished to “stand up to the outsiders and thus bring about ‘[their] economic liberation’” from the dominant economic force. In fact, in her first Québécois novel in 1937, Maria Chapdelaine wrote of the English speakers, “Around us have come strangers we scorn as foreigners. They have taken nearly all the power; they have taken all the money”. Eventually, to change the direction of the province, “There was the realization that economic development should be guided for the benefit of French-Canadians ...and that industrial development, which would result in increased dependence on American and English-Canadian capital, was to be avoided.” This realization, as well as the want to reinstate Quebec as “America’s most stable and archaic rural society,” led to a 13.9 percent increase in farm population between 1931 and 1941 in Quebec. However, the agriculturists’ dreams were crushed “at the end of the 1930’s, when war drew Quebec irrevocably into the industrial age”. With the start of World War I, many workers were needed to work in factories to support the vast amount of troops fighting in Europe. As a result, “many French Canadians left their traditional rural homes...for jobs in the United States [in 1931], posing a great threat to French-Canadian society.” Farming was the heart of the French-Canadian economy, and the shift of workers from farms to factories damaged the nationalistic economy. Though the loss of workers to the war effort proved detrimental to the French-Canadian economy, “French speaking Québécois [still] represented the majority in the timber, construction, and mining sectors [in Quebec].” Unfortunately for the French-Canadians, none of these job sectors came with the economic power of the business world. English speakers, however, were able to gain control of the economy because “of 22,108 business in the province, English-speaking enterprises [held] 86.6 percent of the financial power.” Thus, when Montreal, Quebec’s biggest city, doubled in population between 1941 and 1971, the French speaking migrants from rural Quebec united. Bitter because of the foreign control and influence over Quebec, they “spent the 1940s and 1950s finding one another” building up relationships and communities. This led to “The Quiet Revolution in the 1960s [establishing]...nationalization and the emergence of a new entrepreneurial class among...