French Canadians - Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. The Catholic religion occupied a Central place in French Canadian life from the beginnings of New France until 1960. The authority of the Catholic church was not only religious but also social through the religious community's monopolization of educational and health institutions; economic through the wealth of the clergy; political through the partisan position and alliance of the clergy with English rulers and seignors in the nineteenth century and with the conservative federal and provincial governments in the 1940s and 1950s; and ideological because of the church's strong opposition to liberal and democratic ideas, helping those with conservative and elitist ideas to remain in control. With the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s, the Catholic church lost its social and political influence. Québecois abandoned religious practices and beliefs en masse and rapidly accepted a pluralistic value system. But schools remained confessional, and the governments have lost the battle for the complete secularization of the school system.
Arts. Québecois culture has been flourishing during the last thirty years in literature, poetry, popular songs, theater, cinema, painting, sculpture, and music. The Quebec government encourages arts with subsidies and aid for travel abroad. Cultural relations with France have helped artists to become known in Europe and to build an international reputation. Quebec culture is now celebrated internationally for its Diversity and creativity. Canadian Francophones outside Quebec followed the same path. Acadians have developed their own literature, theater, and popular song, as is the case with Franco-Ontarians and Franco-Manitobans.
Medicine. The Quebec health system was nationalized in 1960, and in 1969 the Health Insurance Commission was created by law to provide free health services for the people. Physicians are paid for their services by the commission. With the aging of the population, a debate has now begun because the costs are constantly increasing. Alternative medical practices are developing, but most are still illegal.
Death and Afterlife. Traditionally, the deceased was displayed at home or later in funeral homes for two days for viewing by kin and friends. A religious funeral ceremony was performed on the third day and a banquet organized after the ceremony. Catholic funerals have been the norm for many years. Recently, cremation was introduced as an alternative with the religious ceremony retained. Beliefs regarding life after death followed the teachings of the Catholic church, which insisted in the 1960s that those who did not conform were condemned to eternal fire. This view was rejected as a manipulative attempt by the church to maintain its waning power.