Saturday, February 2, 2013

Quebec nationalism and the decline of Montreal

"A free nation writes its own history. A subjugated nation sees its history imposed by others whose primary purpose is to perpetuate the subjugation."

Here's how the story goes: Once upon a time, there was a prosperous city called Montreal that was the economic capital of Canada. But one day, dark forces called "Quebec Nationalism" began causing "instability" and in 1977 they imposed French on everyone through La charte de la langue française AKA Bill 101. The good people of Montreal (Anglo capitalists) fled in horror to the safety of Toronto taking all their money with them. And that is why Toronto is now the economic capital of Canada, not Montreal.

Well, that's how it was told to me a number of times. It always struck me as a strange story. As long as there is money to be made, there will be capitalists there to do business. Even the rise of the overtly racist and genocidal Hitler in Germany did not scare away western capitalists. But somehow the PQ and their Bill 101 managed to terrify all these big corporations. Is French really that scary?

There's no denying that the decline of Montreal and the rise of Toronto do seem to be linked and there were some well publicized "capital flight" stories in the media at the time. One only has to think of the story of those Brink's trucks full of cash leaving for Toronto right before the 1970 Quebec elections. OK, that one was a staged media propaganda stunt but Sun Life's headquarters did pack up and leave for Toronto in 1978, listing Bill 101 as one of the reasons. Did Quebec nationalism really cause this economic shift from Montreal to Toronto? If not, then what is the real cause?

The St. Lawrence Seaway

There is, of course, another event that coincides with this economic shift which is the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959. Prior to this, all ocean-going vessels had to stop in Montreal to unload goods which were then shipped to the Great Lakes on smaller vessels or by rail. Most Canadian exports passed through Montreal as well. The St. Lawrence river has always been an important trade route and Montreal is situated at the most strategic spot on this route. Any city in a position like that will prosper.

However, this all changed in 1959. Thanks to the St. Lawrence Seaway, ocean-going vessels could simply bypass Montreal and continue to the Great Lakes and Toronto. So, it's not surprising that much of the economic activity related to this international trade also bypassed Montreal and went to Toronto in the following decades. Politics did play a role in this economic shift but it wasn't Quebec nationalism. It was political decisions made by the English Canadian establishment which favoured Toronto over Montreal.

The real question we need to ask ourselves is what independent country would have gone along with such a project without any real compensation? I'm not saying that the St. Lawrence Seaway is necessarily a bad thing for Quebec. The Panama and Suez canals are both money makers for their respective countries but the revenues Quebec gets from the Seaway are nothing compared to what it lost. The reality is that no sovereign country would have agreed to that. The province of Quebec, however, had no choice but to go along with a plan that was detrimental to its economy. Not only did Quebecers have to go along with the plan but they had to partly finance it through their taxes.

Being dominated by another nation has its price. We're never told of this story and of how many billions were sucked out of Quebec and sent to Toronto. No, we're not told about that but we are endlessly told about transfer payments and how Quebec is like Greece or a third-world country and how Quebec needs Canada to support its extravagant socialist life-style!?!

I think it's time for Quebec to start writing its own history and stop letting others invent it for us.


  1. If you act like an asshole (separatists) you will be treated like an asshole. You want to destroy a country, one of the best in the world...

    Why should anyone be attentive to separatists needs when they just ignore others' needs to satisfy theirs and theirs only. You get no respect and you will never be respected because you respect no one.

    Seaway or no seaway. Soon you will hit a wall and everybody will have to suffer because of your shortsighted views and absolute selfishness.

    1. « If you act like an asshole (separatists) »

      WE all can see how YOU are acting.

    2. One who's so shamefull of her identity that she hides the accent from her name can not give lessons to those who stand for what they are.

    3. Why is reclaiming your nation from the people who stole it described as " dark forces " ? Why is fighting for your culture and people described as " dark forces " . Quebec " imposed french " Of course it did...Quebec belongs to the french, it is a french nation. Do people in japan cater to Anglos? Do they impose Japanese on their people in their own country? Do people in other countries compromise their language for anglos or other immigrants? Of course not. However Quebec pampers Anglos. They are the best treated minority in the world. Quebec does not belong to Canada. Why do Canadians and anglos have such irrational bigotry towards the french? The Quebecois are the victims here, they are just trying to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. The disrespect, bigotry, arrogance, and intolerance of the french must stop.

    4. Destroy a country? How about how Quebec was attacked, conquered, and taken over by a foreign power? Quebec would have had independance by now if were not for the English conquest. Quebec and Canada are two separate nations. Quebec does not belong to Canada. The bigotry and disrespect of the french must stop.

  2. « Destroy a country », I can't believe you are serious. Canada is made of perhaps five or six countries, and if you think Canada is a great country, it does not mean that an indenpendant country wouldn't be a great country as well. Personnally, I don't only want Quebec's independance, I would prefer the other countries of Canada to be independant, so we would each follow our own interests and stop annoying our neighbours.

  3. I'm so happy that someone can understand our point of view. It is so hard to make the majority of Anglos understand that. I am very sad that the simple idea of being independant get us so much hatred. We'll stay good neighbours and we won't close our frontiers ! I am tired of being tied to this federal government. As long as Quebec is not independant, it'll still want to be, to accomplish what it wants to be. We will never be relieved until this happens, never.

  4. Both Canada and Québec statistics give similar numbers about the migration balance between Québec and the roC. The numbers from the Institut de la statistique du Québec cover the 1960's decade. Those clearly show that the migration trend out of Québec started as early as 1962, well before the FLQ and 14 years before the first PQ government.

    - Statistiques Canada :
    - Institut de la statistique du Québec :

  5. My first thought was the sea port that open up is what made some huge changes but don’t forget about the crown corporation that built Hydro Quebec at the same time.

    You also have to remember there was already canals built but they outgrow over time as the sailing ships and followed the steam ships disappeared, then these huge tankers where all over the place, it was a leap in technology and Canada and the USA was booming.

    Lets also don’t focus on Toronto alone you have Detroit the huge Auto Industry, Michigan, Chicago it is endless what that seaport has done. Plus there are many other canals that was built to service the American side as their economy was growing immensely. It had to be built ! The old canals had to be replace.

    Was there an economic shift possibly but at the time the idea was to create revenue as well as Montreal had sustainable manufacturing still in full steam at the time. But was it built to get back at the French or something, hell no!

    We have been at this now over 30 years I had made friends with so many French Quebecers and some who where separatist at one time as when you are young people get caught up in the politics deceptions . When the French where ruled by the Church they jumped from the frying pan into the fire with the idealistic that this was all the English fault.

    If Quebec Did separate you would fine very fast and hard that in order to succeed people will have to adapt to the universal langue of business called English, but at least you won’t have to say to save face it is Canadian English lol. But the tables will turn and those who won’t learn any other language will have a disadvantage and then you will be fighting with yourselves because there will be a split of class, even in the good old Quebec culture.

    At the end of the day everybody wants the same thing. But like Canada and the USA we all are facing hurdles it is called globalisation where the oil sands out west is Canada’s one trick pony.

    The faster you can get everybody to dump this whole thing about separating and start putting heads together the faster Quebec can get on its way.

    QUEBEC 94 PERCENT FRANCAPHONE . I have no idea what your worried about.

    The conclusion is what it is today is not what it will be tomorrow stop living in the past and get along with it do what it takes to build a better Quebec and be a good partner with Canada.

    References : Lachine canal / les cedres canal / Barrage de Beauharnois By the way Hydro Quebec give free tours and a dam good history lesson ( reservations only, French or English )