Quebec, or Québec in French, is a Canadian province, in Eastern Canada, surrounded by the province of Ontario, James Bay and Hudson Bay to the west, by Ungava Bay to the north, by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the provinces of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador to the east, and by the United States (the states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine) to the south. It also shares maritime borders with Nunavut, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
By area, Quebec is the largest province and the second-largest administrative division in Canada: only the territory of Nunavut is larger. It is the second most populated province, and most of its inhabitants live along or close to the banks of the Saint Lawrence River; the north portion of the province is sparsely populated.
The official language of Quebec is French; it is the sole Canadian province whose population is mainly French Canadian, and where English is not an official language at the provincial level. Quebec is also the sole territory north of the Caribbean Sea – aside from France itself, and the thinly populated archipelago of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon – where French is spoken by a majority of the population. Part of New France until 1760, Quebec became a province within the Canadian Confederation at its founding in 1867.
While the province's formidable natural resources have long been the mainstay of its economy, Quebec has renewed itself to become a key player in the knowledge economy: information and communication technologies, aerospace, biotechnology, and health industries. It has also developed close relations with the Northeastern United States.
The province occupies a vast territory (nearly three times the size of France), most of which is very sparsely populated. More than 90 percent of Quebec's area lies within the Canadian Shield and includes the greater part of the Labrador Peninsula. In 1870, Canada purchased Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company and over the next few decades the Parliament of Canada transferred portions of this territory to Quebec that would more than triple the size of the province. In 1898, the Canadian Parliament passed the first Quebec Boundary Extension Act that expanded the provincial boundaries northward to include the lands of the aboriginal Cree. This was followed by the addition of the District of Ungava through the Quebec Boundaries Extension Act of 1912 that added the northernmost lands of the aboriginal Inuit to create the modern Province of Quebec.
The most populated region is the St. Lawrence River valley in the south, where the capital, Quebec City, and the largest city, Montreal, are situated. North of Montreal are the Laurentians, a mountain range, and to the east are the Appalachian Mountains which extend into the Eastern Townships and Gaspésie regions. Quebec's highest mountain is Mont D'Iberville, which is located on the border with Newfoundland and Labrador in the northeastern part of the province. The Gaspé Peninsula juts into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the east.
The northern region of Nunavik is subarctic or arctic and is mostly inhabited by Inuit. A major hydro-electric project is found on the La Grande and Eastmain rivers in the James Bay region (the La Grande Complex) and on the Manicouagan River, north of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Quebec has three main climate regions. Southern and western Quebec, including most of the major population centres, have a humid continental climate (Koppen climate classification Dfb) with warm, humid summers and long, cold winters. The main climatic influences are from western and northern Canada which move eastward and from the southern and central United States that move northward. Due to the influence of both storm systems from the core of North America and the Atlantic Ocean, precipitation is abundant throughout the year, with most areas receiving more than 1,000 mm (40 inches) of precipitation, including over 300 cm (120 inches) of snow in many areas. Severe summer weather (such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms) are far less common than in southern Ontario, although they occasionally occur.
Most of central Quebec has a subarctic climate (Koppen Dfc). Winters here are long and among the coldest in eastern Canada, while summers are warm but very short due to the higher latitude and the greater influence of Arctic air masses. Precipitation is also somewhat less than farther south, except at some of the higher elevations.
The northern regions of Quebec have an arctic climate (Koppen ET), with very cold winters and short, much cooler summers. The primary influences here are the Arctic Ocean currents (such as the Labrador Current) and continental air masses from the High Arctic.
Algonkian, Iroquoian and Inuit groups were the first peoples to populate what is now Quebec. Their lifestyles and cultures reflected the land on which they lived. Seven Algonkian groups 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 lived more settled lives, planting squash and maize in the fertile soils of St. Lawrence Valley. The Inuit continue to fish, whale, and seal in the harsh Arctic climate along the coasts of Hudson and Ungava Bay. These peoples traded fur and food, and sometimes warred with each other.
The name "Quebec", which comes from an Algonquin word meaning "strait" or "narrowing", originally meant the narrowing of the St. Lawrence River off what is currently Quebec City. There have been variations in spelling of the name:
* Quebecq — Levasseur, 1601
* Kébec — Lescarbot, 1609
* Québec — Champlain, 1613
Viking longboats from Scandinavia carried the first Europeans to the Arctic shores of the Ungava Peninsula around 1000 CE. Basque whalers and fishermen traded furs with Saguenay natives throughout the 1500s.
The first French explorer to reach Quebec was Jacques Cartier, who planted a cross either in Gaspé in 1534 or at Old Fort Bay on the Lower North Shore. He sailed into the St. Lawrence River in 1535 and established an ill-fated colony near present-day Quebec City at the site of Stadacona, a St. Lawrence Iroquoian village.
Samuel de Champlain was part of a 1603 expedition from France that traveled into the St. Lawrence River. 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 Quebec, 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. Natives traded their furs for many French goods such as metal objects, guns, alcohol, and clothing.
Helen Desportes, born July 7, 1620, to French habitants Pierre Desportes and his wife Françoise Langlois, was the first child of European descent born in Quebec.
From Quebec, Voyageurs, Coureurs des bois, and Catholic missionaries used river canoes to explore the interior of the North American continent, establishing fur trading forts on the Great Lakes (Étienne Brûlé 1615), Hudson Bay (Radisson and Groseilliers 1659-60), Ohio and Mississippi Rivers (La Salle 1682), as well as the Prairies and Missouri River (de la Verendrye 1734-1738).
After 1627, King Louis XIII of France introduced the seigneurial system and forbade settlement in New France by anyone other than Roman Catholics. Sulpician and Jesuit clerics founded missions in Trois Rivières (Laviolette) and Montréal or Ville-Marie (de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance) to convert New France's Huron and Algonkian allies to Catholicism. The seigneurial system of governing New France also encouraged immigration from the motherland.
New France became a Royal Province in 1663 under King Louis XIV of France with a Sovereign Council that included intendant Jean Talon. This ushered in a golden era of settlement and colonization in New France, including the arrival of les "Filles du Roi". The population would grow from about 3,000 to 60,000 people between 1666 and 1760. Colonists built farms on the banks of St. Lawrence River and called themselves "Canadiens" or "Habitants". The colony's total population was limited, however, by a winter climate significantly harsher than that found in France; by the spread of diseases; and by the refusal of the French crown to allow Huguenots, or French Protestants, to settle. The population of New France lagged far behind that of the 13 Colonies to the south, leaving it vulnerable to attack.
In 1753 France began building a series of forts in the British Ohio Country. They refused to leave after being notified by the British Governor and in 1754 George Washington launched an attack on the French Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh) in the Ohio Valley in an attempt to enforce the British claim to the territory. This frontier battle set the stage for the French and Indian War 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 13 September 1759, General James Wolfe defeated General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City. France ceded its North American possessions to Great Britain through the Treaty of Paris (1763). By the British Royal Proclamation of 1763, Canada (part of New France) was renamed the Province of Quebec.
In 1774, fearful that the French-speaking population of Quebec (as the colony was now called) would side with the rebels of the Thirteen Colonies to the south, the British Parliament passed the Quebec Act giving recognition to French law, Catholic religion and French language in the colony; before that Catholics had been excluded from public office and recruitment of priests and brothers forbidden, effectively shutting down Quebec's schools and colleges. The first British policy of assimilation (1763-1774) was deemed a failure. Both the petitions and demands of the Canadiens' élites, and Governor Guy Carleton, played an important part in convincing London of dropping the assimilation scheme, but the looming American revolt was certainly a factor. By the Quebec Act, the Quebec people obtained their first Charter of rights. That paved the way to later official recognition of the French language and French culture. The Act allowed Canadiens to maintain French civil law and sanctioned the freedom of religious choice, allowing the Roman Catholic Church to remain. It also restored the Ohio Valley to Quebec, reserving the territory for the fur trade.
The act, designed to placate one North American colony, had the opposite effect among its neighbors to the south. The Quebec Act was among the Intolerable Acts that infuriated American colonists, who launched the American Revolution. A 1775 invasion by the American Continental Army met with early success, but was later repelled at Quebec City. However, the American Revolutionary War was ultimately successful in winning the independence of the Thirteen Colonies. With the Treaty of Paris (1783), Quebec would cede its territory south of the Great Lakes to the new United States of America.
Like their counterparts in Upper Canada, in 1837, English and French speaking residents of Lower Canada, led by Louis-Joseph Papineau and Robert Nelson, formed an armed resistance group to seek an end to British colonial rule. They made a Declaration of rights with equality for all citizens without discrimination, and a Declaration of Independence in 1838. Their actions resulted in the Lower Canada Rebellion. An unprepared British Army had to raise a local militia force and the rebel forces were soon defeated after having scored a victory in Saint-Denis, Quebec, east of Montreal.
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. The final report recommended that the population of Lower Canada be assimilated. Following Durham's Report, the British government merged the two colonial provinces into one Province of Canada in 1841. However, the union proved contentious. Reformers in both Canada West (formerly Upper Canada) and Canada East (formerly Lower Canada) worked to repeal restrictions on the use of the French language. The two colonies remained distinct in administration, election, and law. In 1849, Baldwin and LaFontaine, allies and leaders of the Reformist party, obtained the grant (from Lord Elgin) for responsible government and returned the French language to legal status.
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 in Charlottetown, Quebec City, and London to discuss a broader union. As a result of those deliberations, in 1867 the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the British North America Act, 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. (Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland entered Confederation later, in 1873 and 1949, respectively.)
The conservative government of Maurice Duplessis and his Union Nationale dominated Quebec politics from 1944 to 1960 with the support of the Catholic church. Pierre Trudeau and other liberals formed an intellectual opposition to Duplessis's repressive 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 nationalization of hydro-electric companies under Hydro-Québec and the emergence of a separatist movement under former Liberal minister René Lévesque.
The Quiet Revolution has been described by some people as the time when everyone stopped going to church; so that by the end of 1963 the Catholic churches were virtually empty. Whether this is a factual comment or simply an expression of the felt change that Quebec was going through at the time, it provides a telling commentary to the widespread change that the people in Quebec underwent during the Quiet Revolution.
Beginning in 1963, a terrorist group that became known as the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) launched a decade of bombings, robberies and attacks on government offices, 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, who was murdered a few days later. In their published Manifesto, the terrorists stated: "In the coming year Bourassa (Quebec Premier) 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. Once the War Measures Act was in place, arrangements were made for all detainees to see legal counsel. In addition, the Quebec Ombudsman, Louis Marceau, was instructed to hear complaints of detainees and the Quebec government agreed to pay damages to any person unjustly arrested (only in Quebec). On February 3, 1971, John Turner, the Minister of Justice of Canada, reported that 497 persons had been arrested throughout Canada under the War Measures Act, of whom 435 had been released. The other 62 were charged, of which 32 were crimes of such seriousness that a Quebec Superior Court judge refused them bail. The crisis ended after a few weeks after the death of Pierre Laporte at the hands of his captors. The fallout of the crisis marked the zenith and twilight of the FLQ which lost membership and public support.
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.
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% to 30% — and Lévesque himself 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. 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.
Then on the night of November 4, 1981 (widely known in Quebec as La nuit des longs couteaux or the "Night of the Long Knives"'), Pierre Elliott Trudeau met all the provincial premiers except René Lévesque to sign the document that would eventually become the new Canadian constitution. The next morning, they put Lévesque in front of the "fait accompli." Lévesque refused to sign the document, and returned to Quebec. In 1982, Trudeau had the new constitution approved by the British Parliament, with Quebec's signature still missing (a situation that persists to this day). The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed Trudeau's assertion that every province's approval is not required to amend the constitution.
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 provinces of Manitoba and Newfoundland refused to support it. This led to the formation of the 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, was rejected by 56.7% of all Canadians and 57% of Quebecers. 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% NO to 49.4% YES); a clear majority of French-speaking Quebecers voted in favour of sovereignty.
The referendum was enshrouded in controversy. Federalists complained that an unusually high number of ballots had been rejected in pro-federalist areas, notably in the largely Jewish and Greek riding of Chomedey (11.7 % or 5,500 of its ballots were spoiled, compared to 750 or 1.7% in the general election of 1994) although Quebec's chief electoral officer found no evidence of outright fraud. The Government of Canada was accused of not respecting provincial laws with regard to spending during referendums (leading to a corruption scandal that would become public a decade later, greatly damaging the Liberal Party's standing), and to having accelerated the naturalization of immigrant people living in the province of Quebec (43,850 immigrants were naturalized in 1995, whereas the average number between 1988 and 1998 was 21,733).
The same night of the referendum, an angry Jacques Parizeau, then premier and leader of the "Yes" side, declared that the loss was due to "money and the ethnic vote". Parizeau resigned over public outrage and as per his commitment to do so in case of a loss. Lucien Bouchard became Quebec's new premier in his place.
Federalists accused the separatist side of asking a vague, overly complicated question on the ballot. Its English text read as follows:
Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?
After winning the next election, Bouchard retired from politics in 2001. Bernard Landry was then appointed leader of the Parti Québécois and premier of Quebec. In 2003, Landry lost the election to the Quebec Liberal Party and Jean Charest. Landry stepped down as PQ leader in 2005, and in a crowded race for the party leadership, André Boisclair was elected to succeed him. The PQ has promised to hold another referendum should it return to government.
The Lieutenant Governor represents Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. The head of government is the Premier (called premier ministre in French) who leads the largest party in the unicameral National Assembly or Assemblée Nationale, from which the Council of Ministers is appointed.
Until 1968, the Quebec legislature was bicameral, consisting of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. In that year the Legislative Council was abolished, and the Legislative Assembly was renamed the National Assembly. Quebec was the last province to abolish its legislative council.
The government of Quebec awards an order of merit called the National Order of Quebec. It is inspired in part by the French Legion of Honour. It is conferred upon men and women born or living in Quebec (but non-Quebecers can be inducted as well) for outstanding achievements.
The St. Lawrence River Valley is a fertile agricultural region, producing dairy products, fruit, vegetables, foie gras, maple syrup (Quebec is the world's largest producer), and livestock.
North of the St. Lawrence River Valley, the territory of Quebec is extremely rich in resources in its coniferous forests, lakes, and rivers—pulp and paper, lumber, and hydroelectricity are still some of the province's most important industries.
High-tech industries are very important around Montreal. It includes the aerospace companies like aircraft manufacturer Bombardier, the jet engine company Pratt & Whitney, the flight simulator builder CAE and defence contractor Lockheed Martin, Canada. Those companies and other major subcontractors make Quebec the fourth biggest player worldwide in the aviation industry. Quebec's separatist debate has influenced many corporations to move their Canadian headquarters from Montreal to Toronto.
Quebecers comprise the largest French-speaking society in the Americas. Most French Canadians live in Quebec, though there are other concentrations of French-speakers throughout Canada with varying degrees of ties to Quebec. Montreal is the vibrant cosmopolitan cultural heart of Quebec. History made Quebec a place where cultures meet, where people from all over the world experience America, but from a little distance and through a different eye. Often described as a crossroads between Europe and America, Quebec is home to a people that are connected to the strong cultural currents of the United States, France, and the UK all at the same time.
Quebec is also home to 11 aboriginal nations and to a large English-speaking minority of approximately 600,000 people.
Quebec's fertility rate is now among the lowest in Canada. At 1.48, it is well below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1. This contrasts with the fertility rate before 1960 which was among the highest of the industrialized countries.
Although Quebec represents only 24% of the population of Canada, the number of international adoptions in Quebec is the highest of all provinces of Canada. In 2001, 42% of international adoptions in Canada were carried out in Quebec.
Quebec has a high-school dropout rate of 16%, the second highest such percentage in all of Canada.
The information regarding ethnicities at the left is from the 2001 Canadian Census. The percentages add to more than 100% because of dual responses (e.g., "French-Canadian" generates an entry in both the category "French" and the category "Canadian".) Groups with greater than 70,000 responses are included.
Quebec is unique among the provinces in its overwhelmingly Roman Catholic population. This is a legacy of colonial times; only Catholics were permitted to settle in the New France colony.
* 90.2% Christian
o 83.3% Roman Catholic
o 4.7% Protestant
o 1.4% Eastern Orthodox
o 0.8% other Christian
* 7.1% non-religious
* 1.5% Muslim
* 1.2% Jewish
Quebec is the only Canadian province where French is the only official language. In 2001 the population was:
* French speakers: 82.0%
* English speakers: 7.9%
* Others: 10.1% (Italian 5.2%, Spanish 2.3%, Arabic 1.9%, and others)
The motto of Quebec is Je me souviens ("I remember"), which is carved into the Parliament Building façade in Quebec City and is seen on the coat of arms and licence plates.
The graphic emblem of Quebec is the fleur-de-lis, usually white on a blue background, as on the flag of Quebec, the Fleurdelisé. As indicated on the government of Quebec's Web site, the flag recalls the French Royal banner said to have accompanied the army of General Montcalm, Marquis de Saint-Véran during the victorious battle of Carillon in 1758. While the fleur-de-lis, a symbol of France's Ancien Régime, may be thought of as "counter-revolutionary" in France today, it is a modern symbol in Quebec (which was never ruled by the French Republic) and is prominent in its coat of arms.
The floral emblem of Quebec is the Iris versicolor. It was formerly the Madonna lily, to recall the fleur-de-lis, but has been changed to the iris, which is native to Quebec.
The avian emblem of Quebec is the snowy owl.
In addition to the other emblems, an insect emblem has been chosen by popular vote in October 1998 during a poll sponsored by the Montreal Insectarium: The White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis) won with 32 % of the 230 660 votes. The butterfly was in competition with four other candidates: the Spotted lady beetle (Coleomegilla maculata lengi), the Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata), a species of bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) and the six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata sexguttata). The Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs supports and finances actions to officially recognize the White Admiral as the insect emblem.
The patron saints of French Canada are Saint Anne and John the Baptist. La Saint-Jean, June 24, is Quebec's national day and has been officially called the Fête nationale du Québec since 1977. The song "Gens du pays" by Gilles Vigneault is often regarded as Quebec's unofficial anthem.