Civil Rights Movement - Canada's Quiet Revolution

Canada's Quiet Revolution

The 1960s brought intense political and social change to the Canadian province of Quebec, with the election of Liberal Premier Jean Lesage after the death of Maurice Duplessis, whose government was widely viewed as corrupt. These changes included secularization of the education and health care systems, which were both heavily controlled by the Roman Catholic Church, whose support for Duplessis and his perceived corruption had angered many Québécois. Policies of the Liberal government also sought to give Quebec more economic autonomy, such as the nationalization of Hydro-Québec and the creation of public companies for the mining, forestry, iron/steel and petroleum industries of the province. Other changes included the creation of the Régie des Rentes du Québec (Quebec Pension Plan) and new labour codes that made unionizing easier and gave workers the right to strike.

The social and economic changes of the Quiet Revolution gave life to the Quebec sovereignty movement, as more and more Québécois saw themselves as a distinctly culturally different from the rest of Canada. The segregationist Parti Québécois was created in 1968 and won the 1976 Quebec general election. They enacted legislation meant to enshrine French as the language of business in the province, while also controversially restricting the usage of English on signs and restricting the eligibility of students to be taught in English.

A radical strand of French Canadian nationalism produced the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), which since 1963 has been using terrorism to make Quebec a sovereign nation. In October 1970, in response to the arrest of some of its members earlier in the year, the FLQ kidnapped British diplomat James Cross and Quebec's Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte, whom they later killed. The then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, himself a French Canadian, invoked the War Measures Act, declared martial law in Quebec, and arrested the kidnappers by the end of the year.

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