Press-Republican

March 21, 2013

Rise of modern Quebec started 50 years ago

By DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — A series of peaceful changes 50 years ago is seen as the birth of today’s Quebec.

Dr. Stéphane Paquin, the inaugural Fulbright chair in Quebec studies at SUNY Plattsburgh, recently presented a talk on “The Quiet Revolution: 50 Years Later” at the college’s Center for the Study of Canada and Institute on Quebec. 

The Quiet Revolution marked a sharp cultural shift, as the government gained increasing control of education, health-care and economic sectors, he told a small group at the college recently. 

“Some historians might say this was the birth of modern-day Quebec.”

POWER CHANGES

Before 1960, the Union National was in power in Quebec. That party was opposed to state intervention in the education, health-care and economic arenas.

The changes began after the Liberal Party came to power in 1960. During the following decade, the Catholic Church’s control of education and health care was drastically reduced as the government expanded and improved access for more of the population.

A growing realization of income inequality in the province also contributed to the evolution taking place. In 1961, French Canadians earned only 91.8 percent of the average income of male workers in Quebec, more only than Italians and indigenous peoples.

“That was a huge shock in Quebec,” Paquin said.

GROWTH OF EDUCATION

Many blamed it on the lack of educational opportunities offered through church-run schools. That eventually led to creation of a provincial department of education in 1965.

Paquin said that someone born in Quebec in 1946 stayed in school an average of 11.7 years. That compared to 12.8 years in Ontario and the United States.

Those numbers were 14 years, 13.9 years and 12.8 years, respectively, for those born in 1966. 

There was also a perception that French-Canadians were seen as inferior citizens by many Canadians, Paquin said, which was especially apparent in a lack of representation in the federal government.

HYDROELECTRICITY

The provincial government increasingly gained control of economic sectors. One example was the creation of Hydro-Quebec to operate production and supply of electrical power. 

“For most in Quebec, the Quiet Revolution is a very positive thing,” Paquin said.

For that reason, he doesn’t believe privatization of Hydro-Quebec will take place.

’LEADING SCHOLAR’

Center for the Study of Canada Director Christopher Kirkey said Paquin is the first Fulbright chair in Quebec studies at any American university or college.

In 2011, the center reached an agreement with the Ministry of International Relations of the Government of Quebec and and Fulbright Canada to bring a Quebec scholar to SUNY Plattsburgh for one semester a year for five years.

Paquin is a full professor at the Ecole National d’Administration Publique in Montreal, where he is the Canada research chair in international and comparative political economy. While in Plattsburgh, he is working on a project called “Bilateral Relations Between Quebec and the United States: The Perception of the Attentive Public.”

After his presentation, Paquin said that he plans to meet with government and business leaders from all levels to see if the information they use to make decisions on Quebec-related issues is top quality. 

Kirkey said Paquin’s presence in Plattsburgh is a wonderful opportunity for the school community.

“He is truly the leading scholar on Quebec’s international relations,” Kirkey said.

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com