French Quebec Nationalism Assessment Paper

French Quebec Nationalism

A major turning point in the history of Canada was the fall of Quebec which resulted in the transformation of a French colony into a British colony. Had it not happened, English would never have become the first language of the country. The battle of Quebec was one of the numerous wars fought between the British and the French over fur and land during the 18th century. The fall of Quebec ensured the control and domination of British in major parts of North America. New ideas were brought forward by new generations who came in power and redefined the political scenario of the province. The Quebec Act was drafted by the British government which motivated the growth of nationalism in Quebec and since then, the nationalist movement has remained powerful and dominated the politics of the province.

Troubles in Manitoba

In 1870, the British government introduced the Manitoba Act under which the Catholic and Protestant system of schooling was to be unified. However, as Protestants dominated the politics, the government eventually stopped funding the Catholic schools (Crunican, 2012). This resulted in a lot of discontent in the Manitoba and Quebec regions and masses protested on large scales. It was only when the Liberals came into power did the Catholic system of schooling revived but the loss of French from the Canadian system still disturbed the nationalist leaders of the province (Crunican, 2012).

The 1830s rebellions

In the early years of 1830s, the habitants of French Canada (or Quebec) had to encounter stressful economic conditions, an agricultural crisis and severe famine and drought. Louis-Joseph Papineau led an organized mass of nationalists working with the and demanded more power and authority at apolitical level. The nationalists asked for a raise in the revenues spent in Quebec and the control of the provincial civil service. The killing of the local Quebec’s people by the British troops during and/or after the riots also helped in increasing the tension and polarisation between the two groups present in the country. The situation was further worsened when the British government refused to achieve any sort of agreement with the French Canadian parties and took away their money as well.

Therefore, in 1837, a number of rebellions took place in Lower Canada in an attempt to reform the French nationalism in the area. Boycotts of British goods were organized and protest rallies held all over the country. In answer, the British called for carrying out military activities against the ‘rebels’ and arresting the leaders. The British burned down Quebec settlements and there was widespread looting and harassment of the families of the rebels. Although the rebels did manage to defeat small British forces but the rebellions failed against the large British forces result in tension between the British and the French Canadians greatly increasing. The people who were accused of leading the rebellions were exiled while many other participants were deported to Australia and the nationalism force was weakened.

Rene Levesque

Born in 1922, Rene Levesque was an important figure in the history of Quebec. He served as the premier of the French Canadian province and is popular for his active efforts of promoting sovereignty for Quebec. In late 1967, Levesque helped form several separatist movements, of which the most important was Mouvement Soverainete-Association (Britannica, 2012). His career in politics took a major turn with his admission into the Quebec National Assembly where he took up the responsibility of public works and later on, social welfare. Levesque and his party aspired to achieve semi-independence for the French Canadians in Quebec; the idea was to ensure a system in which the provincial governing body made their own laws, collected their own taxes and administered their own foreign policy rather than the British federal system. In return, the provincial government was to create an economic reunion with the federal government. However, the idea of implementing any such plan was rejected in a referendum held in 1980 by a 59.6% of the voters and Levesque’s party suffered a great political setback (Britannica, 2012). Despite this fact, Levesque remained popular and still has a great place in Quebec history.

Henri Bourassa

Born at Montreal, Bourassa was a very well — known journalist and politician in the Quebec history. His political career began with the post of the mayor of Montebello back in 1890. The Anglo-American Commissions of Quebec also had him in the secretarial office in 1898 but he soon resigned and got himself re-elected as an independent parliament member (Belanger, 2004). In the years 1900 — 1920, Bourassa became popular as Quebec’s most influential personality. However, unfortunately he lost his popularity to other prominent leaders and intellectuals after the Great War. Throughout his career, Bourassa’s primary concerns were the threats the British system posed to the Canadian way of living and administration, and the speedy rate at which French Canadian areas were Americanizing (Belanger, 2004). Being a journalist, he used his writing to make the people aware of all such concerns of his. Bourassa also played an essential part in depriving the governing Liberals of their major support in the Quebec politics.

FLQ Crisis

In October 1970, two government officials were kidnapped by people who were accused of being linked to the Front deliberation (FLQ) in Quebec (Tetley, 2007). This became popular as the October Crisis or the FLQ crisis. FLQ was a Quebec nationalist group which had previously carried out several acts of bombing and terrorism in the country with the city hall and police recruitment stations being their major targets. They had also financed numerous bank robberies as well. As a result, the government had imprisoned a large number of FLQ members and even convicted some of them of murder. In retaliation, the FLQ then carried out the kidnapping of James Cross, British Trade Commissioner and Pierre Laporte, the Minister of Labour and Vice-Premier of Quebec and then demanded the release of FLQ members as ransom (Tetley, 2007).

In such crucial times, the Quebec government resorted to seek help from the Canadian army under the National Defence Act and as a result, the War Measures Act was implemented (Tetley, 2007). With these measures, the police were given ‘far-reaching, flexible powers’ and it appeared that martial law had been more or less been declared. The imposition of the War Measures Act infuriated the FLQ and they responded by assassinating Pierre Laporte. This scared the Quebec government and thus, they agreed to negotiate with the kidnappers. As a result, James Cross was released in exchange of the release of five prominent FLQ members (Tetley, 2007). Moreover, the FLQ crisis resulted in the aggressive Quebec separatist movement losing the support and popularity it had strived hard to gain in the course of ten years. In contrast, the separatist movement that aspired to gain independence through political rather than violent means quickly gained popularity and became in the limelight.


Another referendum held to decide the independence of Quebec was held in 1995. Although a little different from the previous one, it also resulted in a 50.58% voting no (Gall, 2012). To be honest, it has always been difficult to understand Quebec nationalism, especially in the modern world when the complexity of the political and the public opinions has further enlarged. No other political event has ever faced the tremendous amount of support and opposition simultaneously, as the Quebec nationalism has done so.


Belanger, D. (2004). Henri Bourassa (1868-1953). Informally published manuscript, Department of History, McGill University, Montreal, QC. Retrieved from

Crunican, P.E. (2012). Manitoba schools question. Retrieved from

Gall, G.L. (2012). Quebec referendum (1995). Retrieved from

Rene Levesque. (2012). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from

Tetley, W. (2007). The October Crisis, 1970: An insider’s view. Montre-al: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

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