Week 4, Chapter 5
Lang Politics & the Quebec Ques
Chapter 5 - French Canada and The Quebec Question
Although French speaking residents now make up less than one-quarter of the Canadian pop, they
constituted a majority of the European pop in the area that is now Canada until the 1800s. Even
though French colonies came under British control, the continuation of the French fact in “Canada” is
It reflects centuries of govt policies and political struggles both inside and outside Quebec to preserve
and promote, oftentimes in the face of resistance, the French lang & culture on a continent that
became, year after year, increasingly English.
Different conceptions of French Canada
The fact that most, but not all, francophones live in Quebec has given rise to 2 basic models w/ which
to address the question of how to deal with the distinctiveness of French Canada.
The first-the territorial principle-would recognize Quebec as the homeland of French Canada and
give that province powers and resources to protect and promote its linguistic & cultural
distinctiveness. Quebec would be granted some kind of special status, distinct from other provinces
and essentially be “French” while the rest of Canada would primarily be “English”.
The 2 ndoption-the personality principle-would treat Quebec as “une province comme les autres,”
recognize the existence of French Canada across the country, & promote bilingualism at the federal
level and in the other provinces & territories.
Historical Overview of French-English relations
In order to thwart what it perceived as a military threat, the British military forcibly removed 1000s of
French speaking Acadians from their homes in the present day Maritime provinces and deported them
to Europe & to other English colonies in North America.
By the time of the Quebec Act of 1774, the British recognized the inevitable and guaranteed the
French their religion rights and their own system of civil law.
As “English” immigrants moved into what is now Ontario in the 1780s, especially the United Empire
Loyalists from the new United States, it became logical to divide the colony into 2:
Lower Canada (Quebec) would be essentially French-Catholic, and Upper Canada (Ontario) would be
Anglo-Protestant. This separation was recognized in the Constitutional Act of 1791.
Lord Durham recommended that the 2 colonies be reunited into the colony of Canada, in which
English would be the official lang & the Anglophone pop of the rapidly expanding western
portion(Ontario) would soon outnumber the French.
In recognition of the Act of Union’s failure, the French language was increasingly used along with
English in the government, cabinets were usually alliances between English and French leaders, and
the legislature operated on the informal principle of the double majority- legislation had to have the
approval of the majority of representatives from both sections of the colony.
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Week 4, Chapter 5
Lang Politics & the Quebec Ques
Ethnic/Linguistic Conflicts, 1867-1960
The Riel Rebellions
Although the 2 lang groups have been regularly accommodated in govt circles since 1867, 6 serious
linguistic conflicts erupted from the time of Confederation to 1960.
The 1 Riel Rebellion precipitated the creation of the province of Manitoba in 1870, as Louis Riel, a
French-Catholic Metis, led the fight for a provincial status. The 2 Riel Rebellion was on behalf of
western Aboriginals who had been mistreated by the govt. To PM John A. Macdonald fell the
unenviable decision of whether to let Riel hang or to use the executive power of mercy to spare him.
French Schools in Ontario: Regulation 17
The 4th main linguistic conflict concerned minority French – language education rights in Ontario. In
1913 the Whitney govt issued Regulation 17 which virtually abolished the use of French in the ON
school system English was to become the sole language of instruction.
The First Conscription Crisis
The Regulation 17 incident in Ontario had its greatest implications in Quebec during the conscription
crisis of WWI. As a British Colony, Canada was automatically at war, but could determine its own
degree of involvement. As the war dragged on & reinforcements were needed, few recruits came
forward, so the govt decided to resort to conscription- compulsory military service-in 1917.
The Quiet Revolution: Quebec in the 1960’s
In the 1960’s the province underwent a Quiet Revolution, consisting of a dramatic change in the
values, attitudes and behaviour of French-Canadian Quebeckers, a new collective self-confidence,
and an enormous expansion of the role of the provincial state.
Rather than having an inward looking obsession with survival, it became outward-looking and
aggressive, and focused on expansion and growth. Post 1960 Quebec nationalism sought to protect
and promote the French language and culture, to increase the powers of the provincial govt, and to
reverse, the dominance of Anglo & external economic power in the province.
Much of the analysis of the Quiet Revolution centres on the concept of the new middle class- civil
servants, teachers, professors, and other salaried professionals.
Since upward mobility was still difficult in the English dominated private sector, this new class used
Quebec nationalism to further its own aspirations in the expansion of the Quebec state.
This new middle class sponsored an enormous increase in provincial govt programs and agencies. But
the changes incorporated in the Quiet Revolution went far beyond the role of govt, including the
emancipation of women and the increasing francophone control of the economy.
Pearson and Trudeau introduced an Official language bill so that the Canadian public service would
operate on a bilingual basis, much to the consternation of those unilingual public servants who were
now pressured to learn French. Parliament passed the Official lang Act in 1969.