French Canadians - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The class structure of modern Quebec is complex and consists of several strata: (1) an Anglophone bourgeoisie; (2) a French Canadian middle bourgeoisie having interests in financial institutions, middle-sized industries, and controlling statist economic institutions, which supports the federalist political position with minimal nationalist claims; and (3) a petty bourgeoisie including public-sector managers and employees, professionals, and small entrepreneurs in industry and commerce, which supports the nationalist party. The working class is numerically important and is divided into two groups: workers organized in strong assertive unions that have won acceptable salaries and working conditions, and poorly paid nonunionized workers. In agriculture, family farms are the majority. Farmers are organized and control the sale of agricultural products through quotas. Quebec has more unemployed persons than other provinces; almost 15 percent of the population collects unemployment insurance or social security payments.

Political Organization. Quebec is a province with its own parliament within a federation. According to the Canadian Constitution, the provincial parliament has jurisdiction over educational, health, agricultural, economic, and social policy in the province. Quebec governments have sought additional autonomy from the federal government since the 1940s. The political system is bipartisan with two major political parties and a third and fourth of marginal influence. The dominant political party has been the Liberal party (1960-1976; 1984-1990). A conservative party in power in the 1950s disappeared in the 1970s, replaced by the Parti Québecois, which governed from 1976 to 1984.

The Quebec government makes decisions concerning education, health, and economic matters. Municipalities have power over local matters. All decisions regarding zoning, the environment, transportation, and economic development are centralized at the government level. Municipalities receive a part of their budget from the central government and are grouped into regional units to coordinate decision making. Deputies are important intermediaries between the people and the government. Ministries have delegated some of their power to semi-autonomous commissions like the Health and Security Commission, the Right of Persons Commission, the Agricultural Markets and Agricultural Credit Commission, the French Language Commission, and the Zoning Commission.

Social Control. Quebec operates under two legal systems: French civil law and English criminal law. The provincial court system has three levels: the Ordinary Court, the Provincial Court, and the Superior Court. Since 1981, a provincial Charter of Person's Right predominates over all laws. Quebec citizens can obtain a Supreme Federal Court judgment when they have passed through the three levels of provincial courts. A national police corps has jurisdiction over all of Quebec.

Conflict. Armed conflict has been rare in Quebec history with the exception of the 1837 revolt. In 1970, when a terrorist group kidnapped two politicians, war powers were enacted by the federal government, leading to the arrest of hundreds of persons and the military occupation of Quebec. The main conflicts in Quebec are not ethnic, but protracted conflicts involving unions are a consequence of the unions' aggressiveness in defending their interests. Racism and any kind of discrimination are overtly condemned and they occur only rarely. Québecois are on the whole tolerant and pacific People who will fight for respect but who generally live in peace with other groups.


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