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HIS314H1 Lecture Notes - Le Devoir, Industrial Revolution, Canadian Identity

Course Code
Kenneth Mills

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HIS314 Migration, Colonization, and Rebellions September 24th 2012
- During the Quiet Revolution, the concept of French Canada switched from a cultural and
linguistic definition to a territorial one based on Quebec
- Importance of Le Devoir in the discussion of French Canadian identity and definition
Migration from Rural Quebec
- In the late 19th and early 20th century, Quebec was both a sender and receiver of migration
- We don’t often think of Canada as an exporter society in migration, but this was the case in
Quebec in this period
- The number of people arriving in Quebec could never match those leaving
- One could therefore argue that migration, and not just immigration, was a central defining
characteristic of Quebec
- Mass exodus of French Canadians from Quebec to Ontario, Western Canada, and New England
- Why?
- There was a great agricultural crisis, there simply wasn’t enough arable land to sustain the
incredible population growth of this period
- Life was hard in Quebec’s rural regions, there weren’t many banks, hard to get credit
o One of the reason why a vast credit union system developed in Quebec, to be discussed
in a later lecture
- Many people had a lot of debt
- Searching for work, many of these young people and large families from rural Quebec where
land wasn’t available, began moving to Quebec’s major metropolitan centres (Montreal) but
also New England, Ontario, and Western Canada
- Like nearly all migration, this would often be seen to start out as something temporary, but
would then turn into something more permanent
- Workers would move to lumber camps, factory jobs in Quebec cities, etc.
- But there is also this exodus, migration beyond the borders of Quebec
Migration of French Canadians to New England
- The clerical nationalists deeply opposed this migration both to the cities and to New England
- There was very little they could do about it
- Migrants felt both the push of an uncertain future in Quebec and the pull of new opportunities
in other locations
- Often, church figures would accompany this migration to set up churches in New England and
maintain the fabric of French Canadian life
- New England was going through its own sort of industrial revolution, springing up great textile
mills with great needs for labour
- Following the workers were priests, French Canadian professionals, and soon French Canadian
societies and villages wre occupying the landscape of New England

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HIS314 Migration, Colonization, and Rebellions September 24th 2012
- In the second half of the 19th century, hundreds of thousands were leaving
- 1840-1930, 900,000 French Canadians settled in the United States
Migration to Ontario and Western Canada
- Another 150,000 left for Ontario
- This exodus was so pronounced that by 1901, only 55% of all French Canadians lived in Quebec
- In, 1867, 85% lived in Quebec
Idea of ‘French Canada’
- It was because of this exodus that there is a growth of this idea of French Canada, that
transcended borders of Quebec
- Defined linguistically, religiously, and ethnically
- Idea that French Canada had a providential mission to spread the virtues of Catholic civilization
in North America
- Back in Quebec, the transformation of farm life continued, many of these farms had been static
with not enough farm work, but there was also the transformation of farm work (introduction of
new technologies)
- Important introduction of new farming methods, growth of dairy farming, all promoted by the
Quebec government
- Yet despite these changes people were still leaving
- It should be said that this migration is not very well remembered in Quebec, though it had a
huge impact on those it effected at the time (broke families apart, etc.)
Migration from the rural countryside to Montreal
- In the late 19th and early 20th century, much of the surplus population of the rural countryside
relocated to Montreal
- This city was undergoing a vast expansion, becoming a major centre of industrial expansion
- Montreal became both the sight of migration from Quebec and immigration into
- First half of the 19th century saw a mass migration of Irish immigrants and major conflicts
- Conflict between these two Catholic cultures gave much of the texture of French Canadian life in
this period
- With the arrival of this Irish Catholic population, there was no longer a clear distinction between
language and religion
- If in the middle of the 19th century the population of the English speaking part of Quebec was
large in Montreal, by the end of the century this flipped and the majority were now French-
speaking (migration from rural to Montreal)
- Major urbanization of Quebec society
o Neighbourhoods sprung up around the factories
o Work in factories was extremely hard (long hours, low wages, conditions)
Royal Commission on Capital and Labour, 1889
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