Sovereignty

 

Back
Traditional Quebec
The Quiet Revolution
Sovereignty
Constitutional Crisis
On-going Crisis
Recent Quebec

 

The Quiet Revolution had crucial consequences on federal-Quebec relations, due to the growing reluctance of Quebec government to leave any responsibilities to the federal government. Quebec demanded an opting-out procedure: when Ottawa started a welfare program, Quebec could opt out, get the money and establish a similar program under Quebec control (Canada Pension plan v. Quebec pension plan). Although all the provinces had the right to opt out, only Quebec did, so this legitimized the feeling that Quebec was special and distinct.

 

By the mid-1960s, Ottawa began to worry when Quebec claimed control over foreign relations relating to culture and education. There was a clear change in the identity of French Canadians, who more and more defined themselves as Quebecois, thus expressing their growing focus on Quebec as a national territory and potential nation-state.

 

Ottawa’s response was the Bilingualism and Biculturalism Commission of 1963. The idea that emerged was that Ottawa needed to be more than the government of English Canada; this could be accomplished by presenting a bilingual face to all citizens. This new policy was meant to contain the emerging separatism of Quebec. Another tactic was to make the Quebeckers much more prominent in the federal government. In 1965, Pierre Elliot Trudeau became minister of justice. Quebeckers were given access to prestigious and powerful positions, thus making the federal government truly balanced. Trudeau was elected Prime Minister in 1968 and the Official Languages Act was passed in 1969: French and English now were the two official languages of Canada. But many Canadians resented official bilingualism: middle class families put their children in immersion programs, but there was a feeling that all civil service jobs would go to Francophones. In the west particularly, there was a feeling that Quebec was the spoiled child of the Confederation.

 

 

 

 

This federal evolution was not enough for Quebec. The economic control of English Canadians was not broken; the young Francophone graduates found it hard to find good jobs in Quebec’s businesses. At first, they were absorbed by the enormous growth of civil service, but by the mid 1960s, this was over. The Parti Québécois emerged as a vehicle for the 2nd stage of the Quiet Revolution. It was created in 1968 by Rene Levesque, a former member of the Lesage cabinet who had organized the creation of Hydro-Quebec. The Parti Québécois combined a left-wing democratic agenda with nationalist ideas. Their solution to continue the social and economic “rattrapage” of the Francophone Quebeckers was the adoption of a language policy: if French became the official language of Quebec and the sole language of work, English Canadian economic control would finally break. The Parti Québécois also came up with the idea of sovereignty-association, i.e. an independent Quebec within an economic association with Canada.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were more radical movements, like the Front de Libération du Québec, created in 1963.The FLQ saw Quebec as a colonized nation that was economically and socially oppressed by the English Canadians. It was inspired by the decolonization movements that were emerging around the world, especially the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale. The FLQ was a Marxist organization that prepared for armed revolution and was reponsible for  for over 200 bombings (of buildings and property, along a few people were injured int he process).

 

In October 1970, members of the FLQ kidnapped the British trade commissioner in Montreal, James Cross, and the Quebec Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte (who was later found dead), and demanded the release of FLQ prisoners. The Trudeau government reacted strongly, with the War Measures Act which banned the FLQ, suspended civil rights, and established martial law in Quebec until the kidnappers were finally apprehended.

 

En 1968, l'une des têtes dirigeantes du FLQ, Pierre Vallières, publiait le livre-culte Nègres blancs d'Amérique, un manifeste socialiste qui prônait la révolution armée, un récit oscillant entre l'autobiographie et l'essai politique.

http://ici.radio-canada.ca/radio/vousetesici/dossiers.asp?idDossier=110608

Francis Simard participated in the kidnapping and murder of Pierre Laporte, the Quebec Minister of Immigration, Labour and Manpower, during the October 1970 crisis. He received a life sentence for his crimes and was released from prison in 1982. He recounted the events in a book titled Pour en finir avec octobre, which inspired the Pierre Falardeau film Octobre.

 

 

 

For many Quebecois, the federal government’s response to the October Crisis was excessive and undemocratic. This reinforced the Parti Quebecois, which won the elections in 1976.

 In 1977, the Assembly of Quebec passed Law 101, which made French mandatory in all areas of work as well as in education, except for the children of parents who had received education in English in Quebec. Law 101 solved the problem of the Francophone graduates and the problem of immigration: the children of non-Francophone immigrants were now forced to learn French rather than English.

In 1980, the PQ organized a referendum proposing sovereignty association. During a very tense campaign, PM Trudeau pledged a rewriting of the Constitution to change the relation between Quebec and Canada. 60% of Quebeckers voted against sovereignty.