the first residents of what is today Canada were Inuit -
"Eskimos" - and tribes that wandered across the Bering Tree
from Asia. The European settlers who arrived in North
America in the 16th century estimated that at that time
10-12 million natives lived on the continent.
17-19. century, the area was alternately under English and
French control until parliament and the king formalized the
area as an English colony. The colonization was particularly
brought about by the lucrative trade in skins, and the local
population reached ½ million by the end of the 19th century.
The British-North American Agreement of 1867 stated that
the Canadian Constitution should be similar to the English
one. The king should have the executive authority entrusted
with a general governor with his advice. The legislative
authority was to be based on a parliament consisting of a
Senate and a House of Commons.
In 1931, the British Parliament exempted Canada from the
agreement that colonial laws should be implemented in the
colony, and Canada gained legislative autonomy. That same
year, Norway recognized Canadian supremacy over the Arctic
areas north of the continent itself.
In 1981, the Canadian government agreed with the British
Parliament to initiate a constitutional transition. It
culminated in 1982 with the replacement of the 1867
agreement with the Canada Act. It involved the autonomy and
status of state associated with the United Kingdom.
The 1982 Act contained a Declaration of Rights and
Freedoms which included a recognition of the country's
multi-national heritage and the rights of indigenous
peoples, the principle of equality between the 10 provinces
and their local supremacy over their natural resources.
The efforts to slow the rise of the Protestant English
around 1760 are an essential part of the religious and
nationalist background that the province of Quebec has
historically held the role of guardian of the Catholic
faith, the French "race" and the French language in North
Quebec had been founded as early as 1608 as the first
French city in North America. French colonization took place
at a slow pace, and this was the basis for a relatively
harmonious relationship between the Native American
population and the French settlers. British colonization
started only later in the 17th century and took place at a
faster pace. This was the basis of conflict between British
settlers in Upper Canada - now Ontario - and French settlers
in Lower Canada - now Quebec. A prolonged war caused the
city of Quebec to fall in 1759, and by the peace treaty in
1763 the French crown abandoned all claims to Canada. In
contrast, the French-speaking population was promised that
it could maintain its language and Catholic religion.
Despite these guarantees, the French people quickly
became economically inferior. Capital accumulation was
largely concentrated on English hands. A feudal agricultural
structure and a strongly conservative Catholic church also
helped keep the French population down. In 1837, outbreaks
erupted in Quebec, supported in part by the poor communities
of Upper Canada. The rebellion was beaten with great
brutality, but social and political discontent continued.
Meanwhile, the French-speaking population grew. The 6,000
Frenchmen of 1769 had become 6,000,000 Quebecois in 1960. In
Quebec, 80% of the population today speak French as their
first language and protect their cultural identity.
Since 1960, Quebec has undergone rapid economic
development, from being a reclusive semi-feudal and
ecclesiastically dominated agricultural community to
becoming a modern urbanized industrial society. The process
has been characterized by the fact that the language
differences have been made into class distinctions. The
capital owners have been English speaking, while the wage
workers have been French speaking. This has led to a sharp
recovery in the trade union movement. In 1972, it found the
only general strike so farin North America place in Quebec,
with occupation of factories and small towns. At the same
time, there was a sharp recovery in the independence
movement that had little significance in the past. In 1976,
the separatist party Parti Quebecois, with René Lévesque,
won the election and formed government. Quebec's
independence stands on the party's program, although it has
also been open to various compromise solutions. In 1977, the
local government decided that French should be the official
language of education, trade and local administration.
The Federal Government had until then met the
independence movement with a mixture of repression,
indifference and compromise. Thus, in 1970, the state of
emergency in Quebec was declared in connection with the
abduction of the local government's Labor Minister Laporte.
Although Lévesque rejected the possibility of unilateral
withdrawal from the federation and instead proposed an
"association status" with common currency and customs, this
proposal was rejected by a 1980 referendum with 59.5% of the
vote against 40.5%. Ten years later, an opinion poll found
that 62% of Quebec citizens continued to support the idea of
"freedom" for their province. In 1995, Parti Québecois
called for a new referendum that yielded a much narrower
result: 50.4% of the population voted against leaving the
federation, while 49.6% voted.