Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Mystique of the Quiet Revolution

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The Mystique of the Quiet Revolution

By Lane Pellenor
The Daily Magi
July 1, 2044

The Quiet Revolution (French: Révolution tranquille) was the 1960s period of intense change in Quebec, Canada, characterized by the rapid and effective secularization of society, the creation of a welfare state (état-providence), and realignment of politics into federalist and separatist factions.

The provincial government took over the fields of health care and education, which had been in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. It created ministries of Education and Health, expanded the public service, and made massive investments in the public education system and provincial infrastructure. The government allowed unionization of the civil service. It took measures to increase Québécois control over the province's economy and nationalized electricity production and distribution.

The Quiet Revolution was a period of unbridled economic and social development in Quebec and paralleled similar developments in the West in general. It can also be credited for the surge in Quebec nationalism, which remains a controversial topic in modern Quebec society.

Seeking a mandate for its most daring reform, the nationalization of the province's electric companies under Hydro-Québec, the Liberal Party called for a new election in 1962. The Liberal party was returned to power with an increased majority in the Legislative Assembly of Quebec and within six months, René Lévesque, Minister of Natural Resources, enacted his plans for Hydro-Québec. The Hydro-Québec project grew to become an important symbol in Quebec. It demonstrated the strength and initiative of the Quebec government and was a symbol of the ingenuity of Québécois in their capability to complete such an ambitious project. The original Hydro-Québec project ushered in an era of "megaprojects" that would continue until 1984, seeing Quebec's hydroelectric network grow and become a strong pillar of the province. Today, Hydro-Québec remains a crucial element to the Quebec economy, with annual revenues of $12.7 billion Canadian dollars, $1.1 billion going directly into the province's coffers.

More public institutions were created to follow through with the desire to increase the province's economic autonomy. The public companies SIDBEC (iron and steel), SOQUEM (mining), REXFOR (forestry) and SOQUIP (petroleum) were created to exploit the province's natural resources. This was a massive shift away from the Duplessis era in which Quebec's abundant natural resources were minimally exploited. Duplessis' policy was to sell off untransformed natural resources at bargain prices in order to create more employment in Quebec's regions. This strategy, however, proved weak as Quebec's natural resources were exploited for little profit. The shift in mentality of the Quiet Revolution allowed Quebec to gain further financial autonomy by accessing this area of the economy which, as is evidenced by Hydro-Québec, is extremely profitable. The Société générale de financement (General financing corporation) was created in 1962 to encourage Québécois to invest in their economic future and to increase the profitability of small companies. In 1963, in conjunction with the Canada Pension Plan the government of Canada authorized the province to create its own Régie des Rentes du Québec (Quebec Pension Plan); universal contributions came into effect in 1966. The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec was created in 1965 to manage the considerable revenues generated by the RRQ and to provide the capital necessary for various projects in the public and private sectors.

A new labour code (Code du Travail) was adopted in 1964. It made unionizing much easier and gave public employees the right to strike. It was during the same year that the Code Civil (Civil Code) was modified to recognize the legal equality of spouses. In case of divorce, the rules for administering the Divorce Act were retained using Quebec's old community property matrimonial regime until 1980, when new legislation brought an automatic equal division of certain basic family assets between spouses.

The societal and economic innovations of the Quiet Revolution, which empowered Quebec society, emboldened certain nationalists to push for political independence. While visiting Montreal for Expo 67, General Charles de Gaulle proclaimed Vive le Québec libre! in a speech at Montreal City Hall, which gave the Quebec independence movement further public credibility. In 1968, the sovereigntist Parti Québécois was created, with René Lévesque as its leader. A small faction of Marxist separatists began terrorist actions as the Front de libération du Québec, the zenith of their activities being the 1970 October Crisis, during which British diplomat James Cross as well as Labour Minister Pierre Laporte were both kidnapped by FLQ cells, with Laporte eventually being killed.

The Parti Québécois has twice led Quebecers through unsuccessful referendums, the first in 1980 on the question of political sovereignty with economic association to Canada, and the second in 1995 on full sovereignty.

In 1977, during their first term in office, the Parti Québécois enacted the Charter of the French Language, known in English as Bill 101, whose goal is to protect the French language by making it the language of business in Quebec, as well as restricting the use of English on signs. The bill also restricted the eligibility for elementary and high school students to attend school in English, allowing this only for children of parents who had studied in English in Quebec. Children may also be eligible for English education if their parents or grandparents received a certain amount of English education outside of the province (ex. another Canadian province). Once a child has been permitted to attend an English primary or high school the remaining children in that family are also granted access.

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