The Queen in Québec

Québec City in 1744 -

Québec City in 1744 –

In October 1964, Queen Elizabeth went to Québec as part of a visit to Canada (which took in PEI, Québec and Ottawa). Her reception there was not entirely welcoming. Riots met much of her visit to Québec, with anti-royalists and separatists greeting her with chants such as “Elizabeth stay at home” and “Vive le Québec libre!”. Her visit coincided with the growth of a nationalist and separatist movement that dominated the politics of Québec – and Canada in general – over the next 50 years. During her visit, the FLQ’s journal La Cognée dismissed the Queen “qui n’est qu’un symbole du colonialisme” (Fournier, F.L.Q., page 95).

French president Charles de Gaulle was a supporter of Québec’s sovereignty movement, signing cultural agreements with the province in 1964 and making a (truncated) visit there in 1967, in which he declared his support. By the end of the decade, the Front de liberation du Québec was involved in intermittent acts of violence and the Parti Québécois had been formed. The Parti Québécois has led the province to two referenda on sovereignty and is now engaged in an internal struggle regarding a potential third referendum, following defeat in the 2014 provincial elections (in which they received their smallest share of the popular vote since first running in 1970). De Gaulle’s relationship with Québec was a contentious one, and one which has been written about widely both in France and Canada.

  • Vive le Québec libre / Dale C. Thomson. (1988)
  • De Gaulle et le Québec / Dale C. Thomson. (1990)
  • Charles de Gaulle : du Canada français au Québec / Marine Lefèvre. (2007)

The subject of independence movements (which we’ve previously written about with regards to the sovereignty movement in Catalonia) allows us to highlight the breadth and depth of the Library’s collections. Reflecting the subject matter, our French- and English-language collections complement each other.

A basic search in the Library’s catalogue reveals that we started collecting books about the independence movement as popular enthusiasm for the movement began to gain importance, and we continue these collections to this day. Many of the earliest works we hold relating to Quebec’s independence movements are in English (though with a significant number in French) and are part of the Royal Commonwealth Society collections. However, as our more recent acquisitions show, the sovereignty movement remains an important force in contemporary Québécois (and Canadian) literature – both fiction and non-fiction – with a dozen books on the subject in the past 5 years (mostly Canadian publications).

The union of the British provinces : a brief account of the several conferences... (RCS.A.62c6.12)

The union of the British provinces : a brief account of the several conferences…

As well as our modern collections relating to the sovereignty movement, the UL also has historical holdings regarding the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s visit commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Charlottetown conference in September 1864, which involved early discussions of Canadian Confederation. Many of our early holdings relating to the Confederation also came to the UL as part of the RCS collections. These include :

  • Histoire du Canada depuis la Confédération, 1867-1887 / L.O. David. (1909)
  • The union of the British provinces : a brief account of the several conferences held in the Maritime Provinces and in Canada, in September and October, 1864, on the proposed confederation of the provinces : together with a report of the speeches delivered by the delegates from the provinces, on important public occasions / compiled by Edward Whelan. (1865)

Historical anniversaries such as this demonstrate the strengths of a library that has been growing, both due to active acquisitions by librarians, as well as through adding collections such as that of the Royal Commonwealth Society. This enables our holdings to remain current while building on the library’s strengths. The Queen’s visit to Québec 50 years ago may have been contentious, but the growth of our collections demonstrate that it happened just as a growing desire for the province’s independence began to gain currency at home as well as awareness abroad.

Josh Hutchinson

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