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March 21, 2013

Rise of modern Quebec started 50 years ago

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.

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