The flag of Québec The province of Québec: 1867-today

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First Era: from Federation to the Quiet Revolution (1867-1960)

1867: Four provinces choose to sign the new federation project; Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Lower Canada that will now be known as the province of Québec. The vote is very close, but finally, the federation passes in Québec (27 for, 22 against). But George-Étienne Cartier, one of the fathers of this federation along with MacDonald, originally saw this as a pact between two people: the French-Canadien and the English. In truth, the deal offers nothing of the sort, and the people of Québec are absolutely not recognised as an equal partner in this deal. Québec is nothing more than a province among four.

These two visions of what Canada should be still clash today. It's the "Québec is a people and a nation different from the rest of Canada" vision versus the "Québec is just a province like the others" one. The new dominion of Canada will know a new age of prosperity, but the people now referred to as "French-Canadians" do not benefit much from the great games of finance and commerce, and remain a largely exploited work force. To boot, they are now nothing more than a minority in an officially "bilingual" country, where in fact, practice imposes English.

1867: At the first provincial elections in August, the province must choose between the proconfederation "Bleus" and the "Rouges" who oppose the new constitution. The Rouges' program is not very well defined, but it is not without similarity to the project of sovereignty-association that will be discussed 90 years later. Despite the threats of the Church who warn that a vote against confederation is a mortal sin, no less than 45% of Québec votes Rouge. We know today that the election was stolen in many ridings. Many proconfederation candidates won doubtful victories with majorities of only 6 votes. Joseph Cauchon is chosen Prime minister of Québec. But the antipathy of the English-speakers of the province keeps him from assembling a cabinet. He is replaced with Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau.

1868: The MP of Montréal-ouest, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, makes a speech in favor of the new constitution. That same night, while he was going back home, he is assassinated by an Irish Fenian, Patrick Whelan.

1869 and 1884-85 : Ottawa plans a new Canada "from coast to coast" and wants to send new settlers in the lands between Ontario and British-Columbia. In doing so, the MacDonald government ignores the presence of the Natives that already live there, like the French-speaking Manitoba Métis. Louis Riel takes the lead of a rebellion that will oppose him to Ottawa. The Canadian government has absolutely no intention of seeing a second Québec emerge in the west and sends the army to crush the rebels. Riel and eight Native chiefs are sentenced to death by an exclusively English-speaking jury. Québec strongly denounces the verdict and Montréal is on the verge of ethnic war. MacDonald declares "Even if all the dogs of Québec bark, Riel will be hanged!" (approximate translation). In Québec, all wear black armbands in memory of the "lost brother". Once more, one's hero is the other's enemy.

Louis Riel
Louis Riel
1870: A dark year for the Saguenay region. In one single day, a fire decimates everything on 150 kilometres. To survive, the panicked inhabitants hide in underground cellars or in the nearest rivers. After this disaster, no less than one third of the population finds itself homeless. Loss of life was thankfully very low.

1871 : The Common School Act forbids teaching of French in New Brunswick (formerly Acadie).

1876: A Québécois inspector for the RCMP, Éphrem Brisebois, founds a post in western Canada and calls it Fort Brisebois (now known as Calgary).

1876 : To have better control over the western lands, Ottawa adopts the "Indians Bill", that parks the Natives in reserves. They become prisoners, as they cannot leave the reserve without proper authorisation.

1877: The construction of the hôtel du parlement begins in Québec city.

1877 : The Public School Act puts an end to the teaching of French in Prince-Edward-Island shools (another former part of Acadie).

1879: Three McGill University students write down the first rules of hockey.

1880: During the Saint-Jean-Baptiste festivities in Québec city, people sing for the first time the anthem of all French Canadians : «Ô Canada!»

1885: A great gathering on the Champ de Mars in Montréal denounces the execution of Louis Riel.

1887: Honoré Mercier, leader of the Parti National, is eleceted as Québec Prime minister. He is not happy with the situation and has not forgotten the Riel execution. He is the first to claim more powers for the provinces and talks about the possibility of independence for Québec.

1889: On September 19th, in the city of Québec, part of the cliffside of the promontoire comes smashing down on Petit-Champlain street, destroying 7 houses and killing 45 people.

1890 : Immigration having now made English-speakers a majority in Manitoba, provincial Prime minister Greenway abolishes the populations' rights to French in school, in the Parliament and in tribunals. In 1916, the Thornton Bill completely abolishes the teaching of French in the province.

1890 : Times are tough in Québec. Many leave the country and the family land for the big city, where they are exploited by bosses that do not speak a word of their language. They receive ridiculous wages in exchange for six days of labour, with a minimum of ten hours a day. A catastrophic number will choose the exile towards the South, where industries are blooming and salaries higher. No less than one million Canadiens-Français leave their homeland for the United States. A huge francophone ghetto is created in New England. At first they will have their own churches, newspapers and clubs. But after a few generations, they are assimilated in the american Melting-Pot.

1892: For the first time, Montrealers can travel in an electric tramway.

1894: Louis Cyr lifts 4562 pounds thus becoming the strongest man in the world.

1896: Wilfrid Laurier is the first Québécois elected at the head of the country. Henri Bourassa joins him at the condition of not having to follow the party vote.

l'homme le plus fort du monde
Louis Cyr
1897: The government of Félix-Gabriel Marchand prepares a bill that would create an education ministry independent of the Catholic church. The bishop of Montréal asks for Rome's help in stopping the initiative, but the Vatican remains neutral. The bill will finally be adopted by the MPs but rejected by the legislative council whose Conservative members are very close to the Church.

1898: A first hydro-electric dam is being built at the Shawinigan Falls.

1899: Montréal hosts the International Cycling Championships.

1899 : England is at war with the Boers in southern Africa. Should Canada participate to the war effort? Canadian prime minister Wilfrid Laurier thinks so. Young Québec deputy Henri Bourassa disagrees. Once more, Québec and Canada are at odds.

1900 : Alphonse Desjardins founds the first caisse populaire, now the most popular banking institution in Québec. With the new century, many new technologies appear, such as the automobile, electricity, telephone and... the movies! The first movie theater of Canada opens in Montréal; the "Ouimetoscope"!

1900: In Montréal, a riot breaks out in February during which the students of McGill, who are celebrating the British victory in the Boer war, battle the Canadiens-français students, who are protesting against Canada's involvement in Great Britain's imperialist wars.

1904: Montréal police officer Étienne Desmarteaux becomes the first Québécois and Canadian Olympic champion. He wins the gold medal in hammer throwing at the St-Louis Olympics.

1904: Henri Bourassa pleads in favor of bilingualism in the institutions of the federal government. His motion receives almost no support.

1910: Henri Bourassa founds a newspaper: Le Devoir.
Henri Bourassa
1910: For the first time, a woman obtains a bachelor's degree from a French language university; the Université de Montréal.

1910: Many new immigrants, fleeing misery, hunger and persecutions and hoping for a better life, arrive from Europe and establish themselves in Québec. Nonetheless, Ottawa openly favors an anglo-saxon immigration.

1912: The federal government grants Québec the Ungava (now often called Nouveau-Québec), thus augmenting its surface and making it the largest Canadian province.

1912: Botanist Carrie Derrick is the country's first female professor, at McGill University.

1914: Robert Macaulay, president of the Sun Life insurance society, begins the construction of the company's main office building in Montréal. With its 26 floors, the building will be, for decades, the tallest in the British empire. The company will finally move its head office to Toronto in 1979 to intimidate québécois separatists.

1914: The ship Empress of Ireland sinks in the Saint-Laurent river causing the death of over one thousand passengers.

1914 : The first world war begins. English-Canadians demand a conscription, but Québec rejects it massively. Outraged by this opposition, Ontario banishes french from its schools. Conscription is declared, and the federal police combs the province of Québec, searching for hidden young men who do not wish to fight in Europe. In Québec city, an angry mob sets fire to the federal police headquarters. After 5 days of anti-conscription riots, a Toronto regiment is sent to intervene and opens fire on the crowd, killing 5 and wounding 70 people.

1917 : As all young men are sent to Europe, women arrive on the working market, as they are needed in the war industry. They shorten their hair and skirts and get rid of their corsets. This marks the beginning of feminism.

1918 : The first radio station in the world is founded in Québec; X.W.A. Four years later, CKAC is on the air, the first radio station on the planet to broadcast in French.

Satellite view of Montréal

1918: The federal government grants women the right to vote.
Lionel Groulx
1918-25 : The years following the war mark a great intellectual awakening in Québec. An important man of this period is chanoine Lionel Groulx, a historian that will mark the new elite of the classic colleges. Some of his thoughts are said to be antisemite by today's standards. Injustice is denounced, such as the absence of a bilingual currency, the absence of French in Ottawa and the unilingual English face of Montréal. Groulx declares: "We will have our French state! Inside confederation if possible, outside of it if we must!"

1921: The KKK (Klu Klux Klan, a fanatical protestant organization which denounces Blacks, Jews, Catholics and Francophones) is implanted in Montréal. Many suspect that its militants lighted several criminal fires, like the one in the Holly cathedral of Québec and the Oka Sulpiciens retirement home (which caused damages evaluated at 100 000$) and the destruction of many invaluable New France archives.

1921: The first union of workers, the Confédération des travailleurs catholiques du Canada, is organized by the Church in Québec to counter the influence of American unions.

1922: Then only 15 years old, Joseph-Armand Bombardier builds the first prototype of his «autoneige» (snowcar). His first completely operational vehicle will be assembled in 1935. A new ultra-light model dubbed «motoneige» (snowcycle or skidoo) is invented in 1958 and sold the following year.

1926: The pasteurization of milk, finally enforced, leads to a sudden decline in infant death rates.

1927 : London's private council grants the Labrador territory to Newfoundland despite Québec's legitimate and historical claims. The Innu (Montagnais) people find their tribal lands cut between two countries.

1929 : The great depression. Québec knows the highest unemployement rates of the country. Misery is everywhere, numerous religious and civil organisations will be founded to help feed the hungry. In those difficult times, an embryo of Nazi parti emerges in Ontario and Québec. Thankfully, it will never know any important growth. It will nevertheless create a great fear in the Jewish community. McGill university will even refuse to accept any jewish students from outside the city of Montréal, in an attempt to limit their number.

1930 : The legendary singer known as «La Bolduc» (her real name was Mary Travers) becomes famous during the Great Depression. «Ça va v'nir, ça va v'nir, mais décourageons-nous pas» (It will come, it will come, let's not give up hope) was her message of hope to the impoverished people of Québec. Her music seduces everyone and soon she is asked to record a new album every month. She describes with intelligence and humor the events of that ime: the new zeppelins, the Dionne quintuplets, Hitler and the war, etc. Her songs speak out against poverty and unemployment and demand more freedoms for women.

1931: London grants Canada the Status of Westminster, thus recognizing the former colony as an independent sovereign nation.

1931: Due to a high birth rate and overcrowded farms, Québec becomes more and urban. 60% of its population now lives in the cities. Although wealthy districts enjoy modern services such as running water, electricity and telephones, the working class district (mainly French-speaking) have it a lot tougher and the infant mortality rates are horribly high. A quarter of all children die before they reach their first year, putting Montréal second only to Calcutta as the most unhealthy large city in the world! For thousands of children aged 14 to 16 who are working in factories like "Dominion Textiles", a 55-hour, 10$-week was the norm.

1935: Doctor Wilder Penfield founds the Neurological Institute of Montréal. His search for a cure to epilepsy will lead him to new and surprising discoveries about the human brain and the functions of its different regions that remained until then unexplored.

1936: Canada finally has a bilingual currency.

1937: The death of brother André, reknown for his healing abilities, attracts one million visitors to Montréal. Special trains are organised in the US to bring pilgrims to Montréal.

1937: On June 17, doctor Norman Bethune, a Montréal surgeon and one of the first to speak in favor of a public health system, is welcomed as a hero from Spain where he was in charge of the republican army medical corps. He revolutionized war medicine by operating on patients only meters away from the front and creating the first mobile unit of blood transfusion. Bethune soon leaves again for China where he joins the Chinese resistance against the Japanese invader. He dies of blood poisoning in China in 1939.

1940: Thanks in great part to Thérèse Casgrain, Idola Saint-Jean and the sufragettes, Québec women can now vote in provincial elections! Better late than never!

1940: The Montréal botanical gardens open their doors, a dream come true for the brilliant Québec botanist, brother Marie Victorin.

Camilien Houde
1940 : The second world war has been ravaging Europe for a year. Canadian prime minister Mackenzie-King, despite his promise made to Québec, adopts a measure that forces all citizens to register. Montréal mayor, Camilien Houde, sees this measure as a first step towards conscription and publicly denounces it, encouraging people to disobey it. He is arrested and thrown in jail for 4 years without proper trial. People in Québec are not opposed to a voluntary participation to the war, and young volunteers are treated as heroes, what people oppose is the conscription; they don't wish to be forced to go fight across the sea for the glory of the British crown.
1942: As the war intensifies, Mackenzie-King organises a referendum to be freed of his promise to Québec. English Canada votes YES to conscription, Québec massively votes NO. But Québec being nothing more than one province among the lot, conscription passes. Once more, Québécois will be forced to fight against their will. In one of his letters, American President Roosevelt suggests to King an unofficial assimilation project of all francophones of Québec and New England. During the summer, German U-boats invade the Saint-Laurent Gulf and sink many ships.

La guerre!
La guerre!
Roosevelt et Churchill
à Québec
During the war, unemployment disapears as the war industry needs everyone available. Again, many women will join the work force. The profession of nurse will rapidly develop and many women will choose it as their living. Military prisons are installed in Québec to incarcerate German prisonners. German submarines even enter the St-Laurent river and attack about twenty ships.

1943: At the Québec conference, British Prime minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt meet to discuss Operation Overlord and a possible military operation in Italy to take the pressure off the Eastern front.

1943 : School is now mendatory for all children aged from 6 to 14 years old.

1944 : Maurice Duplessis, leader of the Union Nationale, is re-elected as Québec Prime minister. He demands more power for the provinces. Although he is definitely not a great democrat (especially in his opposition of Unions, liberal circonscriptions and communist organisations), Duplessis brings electricity to the villages, has several hospitals and schools built and gives Québec its own flag, inspired from ancient flags of New France.

The flag of Québec
1944: The Québec government founds Hydro-Québec.

Since the end of the war, many immigrants come to join Québécois society. They are mostly from Europe... Italians, Jews, Greeks, etc...

1946: Jackie Robinson enters the ranks of Montréal's minor league baseball team, the Royals (affiliated to the Brooklyn Dodgers). Robinson conquers the hearts of Montrealers during the games at Delorimier stadium and becomes the first Black player of professionnal baseball. Several years later, Robinson will declare that he never would have achieved his brilliant career without the strenght and encouragements he received from his Montréal fans.

1948: Artist Paul-Émile Borduas and his friends publish the Refus Global which speaks out against artistic and moral conformity in Québec.

1954: Jean Drapeau is elected for the first time as mayor of Montréal against Camilien Houde. The young lawyer has received a certain notoriety as the procureur of a public investigation that exposed some corruption inside the Houde municipal government. The investigation, started by the firing of the municipal police, Pacifique Plante, lasted 4 years.

The Montréal Canadien hockey club 1955 : Maurice (Le Rocket) Richard, star player of the hockey team Les Canadiens de Montréal, is suspended. Seen as a symbol and a hero by many Québécois, spectators in the Montréal Forum throw junk at the NHL president during the Canadiens-Red Wings game. A tear gas bomb explodes leading to a riot at the Forum.

1957: Foundation of the Alliance laurentienne, which promotes Québec independance.

1959: Inauguration of the Saint-Laurent seaway by Queen Elizabeth II and American president Dwight Eisenhower in front of a crwod of 15,000 at the St-Lambert Écluses.

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History of Québécois French

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