Exploring Quebec’s Cultural Francophone Heritage

As the only French-speaking region of North America, Quebec is unlike anywhere else on the continent. The majority of the population consists of French-Canadians, the descendants of 17th century French settlers who have resisted centuries of pressure to assimilate into Anglo society. That tradition continues to this day, and modern Quebec is a vibrant, fascinating place whose residents remain determined as ever to preserve a distinctive culture, language and unique values. Quebec is a vast province making up about one-sixth of Canada and covers diverse landscapes – from historic cities to isolated Arctic tundra. The region reaches almost to the Arctic Circle in the north, borders the American states of Vermont and New York in the south, and Hudson Bay in the west. The St. Lawrence River, almost 1,200 kilometers long, runs through the most populated regions of the province in the southeast including Montreal and Quebec City.

The name Quebec comes from an Algonquin word meaning 'narrow passage' or 'strait'. The name originally referred to the area around Quebec City where the Saint Lawrence River narrows to a cliff-lined gap. French explorer Samuel de Champlain chose the name Quebec in 1608 for the colonial outpost he would use as the administrative seat for New France. Boundaries of New France evolved over the ensuring years through multiple regional conflicts culminating in The Seven Years' War (1756–1763).  Widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, the Seven Years War was a struggle for world supremacy between Great Britain and France which ended with Quebec became a British colony. Though Britain gained the territory of New France and French Canada in the 1763 Treaty of Paris, its open provisions have often been cited as the basis for Quebec having its unique set of laws and language that are different from the rest of Canada. Since Britain allowed colonies that were taken through conquest to continue their own laws,  many Roman Catholics were allowed to become jurors in Quebec courts and promote the principles of French law. Proudly displayed on the coat of arms and monuments, Quebec’s official motto “Je me souviens” (“I remember”), has taken on a symbolism that reflects the province’s complex history and encourages the continued defense of its French cultural heritage.

The economy of Quebec is diversified with aerospace, transportation and information technology reflecting the highest growth.  Quebec's substantial natural resources are used in hydroelectricity, forestry, and mining and have also long been a mainstay. Quebec is well known in popular culture for producing maple syrup, for its comedy, and for making hockey one of the most popular sports in Canada. It is also renowned for its literature, music, films, TV shows, festivals and more. Just for Laughs (Juste pour rire) is a comedy festival held each July in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1983, it is the largest international comedy festival and attracts spectators from around the world including talent scouts, booking agents, producers and managers from the entertainment industry. From Leonard Cohen to Celine Dion, Norm McDonald and more, Quebec has offered the world amazing music, comedy and entertainment.  

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