To Jean Lesage ushered a period of intense changes

To call this era of drastic change
the ‘Quiet Revolution’ is a vivid, and yet, paradoxical description. The Quiet Revolution
was a period of intense socio-political and socio-cultural change in Quebec, which
extended beyond Quebec’s borders by its influence on contemporary Canadian
politics. Given the profound effect of the changes that occurred during this Quiet
Revolution, most Quebec provincial governments since the early 1960s have
maintained an orientation based on the core concepts developed and implemented
in that era. As such, there is no doubt that the Quiet Revolution had a
significant impact in Canadian History. This impact can be characterized by the prelude to the Quiet Revolution; the demographic
evolution of Quebec; the social educational reforms that were put in place; the
economic reforms and their impact; the rise of nationalism; and finally, the
cultural changes that occurred.

The image most often associated
with Quebec’s French-Canadian people during the 1940s and 50s was that of a church-ridden,
agricultural society outside of the mainstream urban-industrial way of life. The
period before the Quiet Revolution was called the ‘Duplessisme’. Under the era
of Maurice Duplessis, the premier of Quebec and leader of the Union Nationale;
Quebec was characterized by traditionalism, conservatism, and a general
rejection of contemporary ways (Belanger). Consequently, the province had
fallen behind and lived through ‘les annees noires’ (Dickinson and Young, 271).
This was essentially a time following the depression to the Quiet Revolution, marked
by the strengthening of conservative ideology and clerical power. Even though Duplessis
was portraying a picture of a docile Catholic population, the reality was much
more complex because demographically, socially, and economically, Quebec was
going through the motions of modernization. Post war immigration and linguistic
tensions, activist reform movement within the church, organized labour, and a
widespread growing consciousness of class and ethnic realities were all obvious
signs that beyond Duplessis’s conservatism, the Quiet Revolution was inevitable.
As a result, the death of Duplessis and subsequent takeover by the Liberal
party of Jean Lesage ushered a period of intense changes and activities that
forever marked Canadian history.

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            The Union Nationale seemed very
anachronistic due to its conservative ideology and outdated traditional values
(Durocher). As a result, the rise of Quebec’s liberal party set in motion a
period of rapid change in Quebec, as institutions and attitudes were swept
away, transforming state, economy, family, and society (Dickinson and Young,
305). True to the liberal slogan, ‘its time for a change’, the first major
change that took place during the quiet revolution was a widespread rejection
of past values (Durocher). As such, the demographic evolution of Quebec
following the Quiet revolution was significant, and demographic tendencies
associated with rural or religious ways of life were reversed (Belanger). This
evolution can be marked by factors such as a sharp decline in birth rate,
decline of the traditional family, and migration patterns (Dickinson and Young,
307). While all these were common across the western world, the shifts in
Quebec were startling. Quebec’s birth rate was one of the highest in the
western world and dropped to be one of the lowest by the 1980s. In the second
half of the 1960s collapse of church influence and introduction of the birth
control pill was the push factor for the fertility index falling from 3.4
children per women in 1960, to 2.0 children per women in 1970 (Dickinson and
Young, 307). Although birth rates across Canada declined in the same period, the
drop in Quebec was much more severe, contributing along with immigration
patterns to the decline in Quebec’s share in the overall Canadian population. This
decline in birth rate gave credence to fears for the survival of the francophone
population and fostered linguistic tensions, heightening pressure to force the
integration of immigrants into Francophone society (Dickinson and Young, 308).
Moreover, changes in family structure were another striking feature of Quebec
demographics during the Quiet Revolution. With the sharp decline in religious
practices after 1960 and changes in moral attitudes, marriage was no longer the
norm, particularly among educated francophones (Dickinson and Young, 309). In
1961, 4.9 percent of the population lived alone, and by 1989 this number rose
to 24.5 percent. In

 1961 only 8 percent of household with children
were headed by single people, and by 1989 this jumped to 26 percent (usually by
divorced or single women), which was double the Canadian average (Dickinson and
Young, 310). Migration patterns also contributed to the changing population
profile. Between 1971 and 1986, 148 274 anglophones left the province of
Quebec. At the same time, their concentration in the Montreal region rose
between 1961 and 1986. Immigration to Canada declined after 1974 and Quebec’s
share of this immigration decreased as well. Overall, due to the significant
change in social and moral values Quebec’s demographic tendencies shifted, contributing
to shift in overall Canadian statistics.

            Furthermore, the Lesage
administration managed to carry out a series of reforms that rejected
traditional Catholic views and accelerated the modernization,
bureaucratization, and influence of the state. This included building
structures to cope with the demands of mass education and the welfare state.
These reforms brought the state much closer to private life (Dickinson and
Young, 305). As such, educational reform was highly emblematic of the changes
made in the wake of the Quiet Revolution (Linteau). The pressures exerted by
the baby boom generation, which had now reached adolescence, created a dramatic
situation that pushed Quebec’s weak education system to its knees (Durocher).
Education was underneath the Catholic church, and the system and curriculum
were obsolete, producing one of the highest dropout rates (CBC news). In rural
Quebec, education was an especially low priority. The clergy believed it would
be able to provide appropriate teaching to young people and that the state
should not interfere. Thus, by the early 1960s there were more than 1500 school
boards, each responsible for its own programs, textbooks, and recognition of
diplomas according to their own criteria (CBC news). The level of formal
schooling among French Canadians was quite low, as only 13 percent finished
grade 11, as opposed to the 36 percent of English Canadians. As a result, the
government introduced new legislation on education and established the commission
of inquiry on Education, chaired by Alphonse Marie- Parent. The resulting 1964
Parent report tackled the entire system (Durocher). In recommending the
creation of a department of education, it questioned the role of the Catholic
church, which controlled the public-school system. This led to the adoption of
several reforms, including secularization. In 1964 a Ministry of education was
established, and although schools maintained their Catholic or Protestant
character, in practice they became secular institutions (CBC news). Other
educational reforms included the age for compulsory schooling being raised from
14 to 16, schooling was made free until grade 11, school boards were
reorganized, school curricula were standardized, and classical colleges were
replaced with publicly funded Collèges d’Enseignement Général et
Professionnel, or CEGEPs (Colleges of General and Occupational
Education). The desire to modernize was evident all throughout the governmental
social sphere, resulting in the development of many new departments and
agencies (Linteau). The effect of these changes to the academic and social
sphere have made a significant mark in Canadian history, as the educational
system and many social systems in Quebec remain unique from the rest of Canada
to this day.

            Moreover, during the Quiet
Revolution, the Quebec economy underwent fundamental change. Under the slogan ‘Maîtres
Chez Nous’ (Masters in own house). The Quebec government became an active
player in the economy of the 1960s, contributing to the economic advancement of
Francophones (Dickinson and Young, 312- 313). The most spectacular move was the
nationalization of private electricity companies. Huge power developments along
the North Shore in the 1960s and in the James Bay drainage basin in the 1970s
created thousands of Jobs and a generating capacity that enables Quebec to
export electricity to New England (Dickinson and Young, 313).  Unlike in previous years, Francophones were
able to work entirely in French and establish their technical, scientific, and
managerial skills (Durocher). As such, the Hydro Quebec project grew to be an
important symbol in Quebec because it demonstrated the strength and initiative
of the Quebec government. Along with the success of Hydro- Quebec, the
government created no less than 13 state corporation in the 1960s (Dickinson
and Young, 313). More public institutions were created to follow through with
the desire to increase the province’s economic autonomy. Public companies were
created to exploit the province’s natural resources, which was a massive step
away from the Duplessis era. However, these economic reforms also had negative
impacts on the Indigenous Peoples of Quebec. Resource development, particularly
Hydroelectric developments such as the James Bay complexes changed life in
Native homelands by flooding traditional trapping areas (Dickinson and Young,
341). Also, lack of economic control over traditional Native territory was an
ongoing problem. The James Bay agreement provided compensation to the Cree for
allowing Hydro- Quebec, but despite such agreements aboriginal people in Quebec
continued to suffer from discrimination and unemployment (Dickinson and Young,
342). In 1981 the average annual income of a non- native Canadian was 13,100
dollars, but an average Native income was 8,600 dollars. The infant mortality
rate was 3 times the Canadian average, and life expectancy was 10 years less
for a Native person (Dickinson and Young, 342). 
Quebec, just like other Canadian provinces had failed to resolve
deepening Native poverty. Therefore, the economic reforms that followed the
Quiet revolution had a significant impact on Canadian history, in that Hydro
Quebec remains vital to Quebec economy today, but the Indigenous people of
Canada have yet to break out of cycles of poverty.

            The societal and economic
innovations of the Quiet Revolution that empowered Quebec society emboldened
certain nationalists to push for political independence (Belanger). The general
revolutionary tendencies in other countries and societies during that era took
a nationalistic twist in Quebec, and a feeling of independence and empowerment
emerged. Quebec’s quiet revolution occurred during the roaring 60s, a time when
the western world was undergoing a cultural revolution. The political power of
the church, religious observance and the ranks of the clergy shrank. In this era,
a new Quebec voice found expression (Belanger). A new form of nationalism
emerged that was unlike Duplessis’s nationalism. It was essentially reformist
and demanded a change in Quebec’s position in confederacy (Belanger). This new
nationalism manifested itself in a number of diverse ways: the liberals wanted
greater autonomy for Quebec but remained federalists; the independence movement
grew in size and credibility during the 1960’s and the socialists wanted to go
beyond reformism (Belanger). In a way, all the social and economic reforms were
a part of ‘The National Question’. Defense of the French language became a
centerpiece of nationalism. These imperatives provided a new dilemma to
anglophones and other non- francophones whose assimilation into Quebec was
implied. This nationalism also tended to isolate the federal government as
foreign or even hostile to the aspirations of the Quebec people (Dickinson and Young, 304-306). Federal-provincial
debates raised questions about the place of Quebec and French Canadians in
confederation (Durocher). French Canadian nationalism was becoming more and
more Quebecois in nature. The number of separatist groups increased, and some
of them adopted more extreme positions such as the Front de Liberation du
Quebec (Durocher). Ultimately this francophone self- affirmation during the
Quiet Revolution played a key role in defining Quebec’s place and attitude
within the larger Canadian identity, that is still present to this day.

Moreover, the strengthening and
modernization of Francophone culture was another important theme of the Quiet Revolution.
Religious domination of education and culture withered in the 1960s and
Quebecers looked increasingly to the state as the defender of national life and
Francophone culture (Dickinson and Young, 336. In the 1960s artists became
leading voices of Quebec Nationalism. People like Michael Tremblay, Pierre Valleres,
and Gaston Miron stirred up intense nationalistic feelings by encouraging pride
in being Quebecois (Dickinson and Young, 337). A major theme of this initiated
cultural consciousness was the primacy of the French language. 1970s literature
reflected a growing feminist voice within Quebec society, through the works of
Nicole Brossard (Dickinson and Young, 339). Pride in Quebec’s national
literature bloomed as Quebecois authors replaced traditional catholic analogies
in the high school/CEGEP curriculum, and universities made Quebec literature a
distinct field of study from the undergraduate to doctoral level (Dickinson and
Young, 339). Cultural revival in Quebec was further stimulated by expanding the
sadly inadequate cultural infrastructure. Large government funded concert halls
and auditoriums, funded as part of centennial celebrations introduced classical
music, opera, and theater to a wider audience. New galleries gave visual arts
more prominence. Alongside private historical museums, the Quebec and Federal
governments competed to present their interpretations of history. Additionally,
the minister of Cultural affairs initiated the development of libraries,
museums, and concert halls. Within 5 years, more than a hundred new libraries
were opened (Dickinson and Young, 337-339). This investment in Quebec’s artistic
and cultural infrastructure has had a lasting effect on Canadian History, as it
encouraged and developed a distinctive Quebec culture separate from the rest of
Canada, and gave Quebec itself a unique voice.

To conclude, the Quiet revolution
brought about rapid and massive changes in the way the Quebec population,
especially Francophone, viewed and governed itself. These changes are typically
categorized by factors such as the prelude to the Quiet Revolution, the
demographic evolution of Quebec following the revolution, the social and
economic reforms, the rise of a new type of nationalism, and finally, a revival
of culture. As such, there can be no doubt that the Quiet revolution had a
significant impact on Canadian history. The Quiet revolution and the events
that followed forced the political system to choose whether to remain with its
traditional British structure and traditions, to split, or to take the route of
minor decentralization, equal rights for both languages throughout the country,
and federal protection of the country’s Francophone and Anglophone minorities
throughout Canada. The changes that occurred within Quebec are still hugely
evident today. Quebec is a secular, green, headstrong province with about a
quarter of Canada’s population. Quebec does suffer from very high taxation,
sometimes irrational and overbearing language laws, some xenophobic elements,
and an inferiority complex, but it is certainly in charge of its own affairs.