"Vive Montr�al! Vive le Qu�bec! Vive le Qu�bec libre!" - French President Charles de Gaulle, 1967
The 1960s, was an era of heightened nationalist passions in Canada. The country celebrated its 100th anniversary with a party in Montreal and a new flag. In Quebec, nationalism was also front and centre as the province underwent a revolution of change that would usher in a new era of separatist upheaval.
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The Quiet Revolution
The provincial government spearheads revolution in Quebec
The Great Flag Debate
Canadians respond with passion and dissension as the country seeks a new national symbol
Canada welcomes the world but reveals a tear in its national fabric
The October Crisis
A radical Quebec group raises the stakes on separation and Ottawa invokes the War Measures Act
The decade began with Quebecers electing a new reform-minded premier, Liberal Jean Lesage. The new premier was determined to fully modernize the province, which had been controlled for 18 years by the iron authority of former premier Maurice Duplessis.
The Quiet Revolution
The Lesage government set about nationalizing the hydroelectric utilities and overhauling the church-based education system. It also set up a medicare program and created new ministries for cultural affairs and federal/provincial relations. Brian Upton, a Montreal Star journalist, coined the phrase "Quiet Revolution" to describe the massive changes being wrought in Quebec.
Emerging in the new Quebec, were growing separatist passions. On the night of March 7, 1963, the most radical separatist group to emerge so far the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) proclaimed its existence by placing bombs in mailboxes in Montreal.
A month after the bombings, Lester B. Pearson was elected Prime Minister, and as one of his early initiatives, he created the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.
While the commission was at work, Pearson launched a debate on the nation�s flag, or its lack of one. The Prime Minister was hoping for a symbol that would unite Canadians. Canada had existed for almost a century and still did not have a flag to call its own. But instead of uniting the country, the flag became yet another divisive issue. A new flag was finally raised on Parliament Hill on February 15, 1965.
Two years later Canadians celebrated another nationalist milestone as the country marked its 100th birthday. Expo 67 was the pinnacle of the celebrations and a symbol unity and pride for Canadians.
Montreal hosted the mammoth world's fair, revealing to Canada and the world the enormous economic and social transformation of post-war Quebec. Expo 67 was a gleaming futuristic spectacle. It was visited by more than 50 million people, a stunning international success.
In the wake of the giddy spirit of Expo 67, Pierre Trudeau�s leadership campaign had a contagious glamour. Trudeau won the Liberal leadership and led his party to victory in the federal election on June 25, 1968.
In 1969, the Trudeau government passed the Official Languages Act, giving French and English equal status in Canada. It also proclaimed that all federal agencies, departments, institutions, and organizations must operate in both languages.
Crisis in October
But a year later, a radical Quebec separatist group triggered a dark chapter of Canadian history. In October 1970, the Front de Libération du Québec kidnapped British trade commission James Cross and Quebec labour minister Pierre Laporte.
Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act and hundreds of people in Quebec were arrested without warrants or charges. The October crisis ended with the death of Pierre Laporte and the release of James Cross. After the arrest and conviction of key members, the FLQ ceased activity.
But the issue of Quebec separatism remained alive and well. On November 15, 1976, the separatist Parti Québécois swept to victory in the provincial election, winning seventy-one ridings to the Liberals� twenty-six.