Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Province of Quebec


The province of Quebec occupies mainly the two slopes of the vast basin formed by the St. Lawrence River whose course runs chiefly between the Laurentian and Alleghany ranges. Its boundaries are: to the north, the district of Ungava; to the northeast, Labrador; to the east, the Gulf of St. Lawrence; to the southeast, New Brunswick, and the States of Maine and New Hampshire; to the south, the States of Vermont and New York, and the Counties of Glengarry and Prescott in Ontario; to the west, the province of Ontario. Quebec is comprised between the 45th and 54th degrees of latitude north, and the 57th and 79th degrees of longitude west of Greenwich. Its area measures 354,873 square miles; about equal to that of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and Holland united. No country in the world of the same extent possesses so many and so abundant waterways, chief of which are the St. Lawrence, discharging the Great Lakes, and navigable to its very source, and its principal tributaries: the Ottawa, the St. Maurice and the Saguenay, each of which surpasses in navigableness the largest rivers of Europe. Innumerable cascades falling from the Laurentian heights represent boundless mechanical forces; the forest resources of Quebec are still immense, and its asbestos mines the richest in the world. The principal cities are:

Quebec, the capital, founded in 1608, population, according to the last census (1901), 68,840; Montreal founded 1642, population, exclusive of lately annexed municipalities, 267,730; Three Rivers, founded 1634, population, 9981; Sherbrooke, 11,765; Hull, 13,993; Valleyfield, 11,055. Quebec, the capital, long enjoyed a political, military, and commercial superiority over all Canada. Although since surpassed in material prosperity, it still appeals to the scholar and student, teeming as it is with historical interest, while to the tourist it offers a view of magnificence and picturesqueness perhaps unique in the world. Here landed the discoverers of the country and the founders of the nation; hither came the bare-footed Recollect, the black-robed Jesuit, the Ursuline and the hospital Sisters; here the noble and saintly Laval ruled the infant Church of New France; from hence the Faith radiated throughout North America. Here was born Joliet, the discoverer of the Mississippi; here the viceroys held court; here flourished, from the very outset, many of the dearest devotions of the Church. Laval's first cathedral was dedicated in 1666 to the Immaculate Conception; the cult of the Holy Family was approved in 1665, a fact lauded by Leo XIII in his Letter "Neminem fugit" (14 June, 1892); the first celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the New World took place in the Ursuline chapel (1700); Traditions of courtesy as well as of piety were created that have left their impress on the people's character. Almost the entire population of the province of Quebec, i. e. about five-sixths, consists of French-Canadians; the remainder comprises chiefly the descendants of English, Scotch, and Irish immigrants. About 12,000 Indians and half-breeds of the Iroquois, Huron, Micmac, Abenaki, and Montagnais tribes occupy reservations in different sections of the province. With one or two exceptions, these aborigines are instructed by missionaries in their respective tongues, which they have faithfully preserved in spite of their environment.


Although there is no state religion, and freedom of worship is sanctioned by law, the immense majority of the population being Catholic in faith and practice, the relations between Church and State are, as a rule, harmonious. The hierarchy and clergy are habitually treated with due consideration and respect, in recognition not only of their sacred character, but also of the efficient part they have ever taken in the moral as well as the social well-being of the country. Public order, education in every degree, agriculture, colonization, and even industry, all owe a debt to the influence of the Church, which the political authorities are prone to recognize. In all public religious demonstrations, such as the procession of Corpus Christi, the dignitaries of the State occupy a prominent rank. The province of Quebec comprises three metropolitan sees: Quebec, Montreal, and Ottawa. That of Quebec counts four suffragan dioceses: Three Rivers, Rimouski, Chicoutimi, Nicolet, and one vicariate apostolic, the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The suffragan sees of Montreal are: St. Hyacinth, Sherbrooke, Valleyfield, and Joliette. The ecclesiastical province of Ottawa, partly situated in Ontario, comprises the Diocese of Pembroke and the Vicariate Apostolic of Temiscamingue. The Catholic population of the province, according to the last government census (1901), was 1,449,716, out of a total of 1,648,898. Later statistics (ecclesiastical), including 1910, show an increase for the two ecclesiastical provinces of Quebec and Montreal, and exclusive of that portion of the civil province depending on the metropolitan See of Ottawa, of 163,611, giving a total Catholic population for 1910 of 1,613,327, Quebec and suffragan sees having a total of 731,609, and Montreal, with its suffragans, of 789,502. This increase in a province where race-suicide is unknown and families proverbially numerous, in spite of a notable infantile death-rate, should be far greater, were it not for the continuous flow of emigration to the United States and to the western provinces of Canada, with a comparatively small immigration from Europe. This emigration of French Canadians, according to authentic statistics, amounted to 10,000 for the single year of 1909. (For history, see CANADA.)


All penitentiaries and prisons are provided with Catholic chaplains subsidized by the State, and feast-days of obligation, as well as Sunday, are observed. Reformatories for youth are managed at the public expense by the Brothers of Charity for older boys, by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd for girls, and by the Sisters of Charity for younger children of both sexes, the Government contributing in the last two cases a per capita sum for a limited number of juveniles. The two largest sanitaria in the province are managed, by government contract, by the Sisters of Providence and of Charity, in Montreal and Quebec, respectively. Homes for idiots, enjoying government subsidies, are likewise in the care of religious. According to the latest criminal statistics (1908), the province of Quebec, with a ratio of 13.91 per 10,000 of population, comes fourth in order of excellence, after the three maritime provinces, where there has been no immigration within the last decade; and third for number of convictions according to population, being one for each 96 inhabitants, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick alone surpassing Quebec.


The public-school system in the province of Quebec, without being ideal, is, in a notable measure, respectful of the rights of the family and of the Church. This desirable condition results mainly from the constitution of the Council of Public Instruction, composed, ex officio, of the hierarchy of the province representing the Church, and of an equal number of laymen. The latter are nominated exclusively by the lieutenant governor in council. The council is presided over by a superintendent of public instruction who represents the State; there is no minister of education, and politics are thereby partly excluded from the administration. Several principals of normal schools and lay professors have lately been added to the council. The council has the power to distribute a limited portion of the public moneys for primary and classical schools, to propose certain nominees to normal schools and to the board of examiners for teaching licences, to approve or reject all text-books. But its powers are more advisory than legislative, nearly all its deliberations being subject to government sanction. A committee similarly organized attends to the educational interests of the Protestant minority. The most striking feature of the Quebec school law is the absolute liberty enjoyed by each of the two chief religious denominations of controlling its own schools agreeably to the wishes of parents. In municipalities where they form the majority, Catholics cannot interfere with the rights of Protestants, and vice versa. In this respect, of all the school laws of the dominion, that of Quebec may justly be considered as the fairest and most conducive to religious harmony; never was a majority so liberal towards a minority. The school grants are even proportionally larger to the latter (the Protestant minority) than to the former. It has been rightly proclaimed that nowhere has the separate school law been more generously and conscientiously applied, and that, to the honour of French Catholic Quebec, there has never been any occasion to invoke government interference for the protection of the minority. This fair treatment extends likewise to the language. The French-speaking province of Quebec amply provides for the requirements of the English-speaking minorities, as regards education in their mother tongue. Moreover, a course of English, in many cases quite efficient, is given in every French school of the intermediate and higher grades. It must be noted that there is only one school law for the province, under which all schools, Catholic and Protestant, are organized. To interest the people more deeply in the schools and give greater unity and strength to the system, the legislature has grafted it on the parish organization. Each parish is thus incorporated three times:

  • for church affairs;
  • for municipal affairs;
  • for school affairs.

The parish priest is eligible as school commissioner, and has the right to visit the schools with the exclusive choice of textbooks relating to religion. In parishes where there is a Protestant minority, the minority has a right to a dissentient separate school, controlled by special trustees. Lay inspectors, nominated by the governor in council, visit all schools under control of the school commissioners; diocesan clerical inspectors, chosen by the respective bishops, are authorized to visit even schools receiving a partial grant from the Government. Normal or training schools, based on the principle of denominationalism, were definitively created in 1857, two for the Catholics, one in Quebec for both sexes, the Laval, and one in Montreal, the Jacques-Cartier, for male teachers, and one for Protestants, in Montreal, the McGill. Recently, normal schools for women teachers only have been established in Montreal, Three Rivers, Rimouski, Chicoutimi, St. Hyacinth, Hull, Sherbrooke, Valleyfield, Nicolet, and Joliette, under the management of religious communities, and grafted on pre-existing educational institutions. In each of the ten Catholic normal schools of the province, the principal is a priest nominated by the Catholic committee. Another late improvement is the establishment of special schools of domestic economy under the management of sisters. (For legislation relating to the Church, see CANADA.) The latest report of the superintendent of public education for the school year 1909-10 gives the following general statistics for the province of Quebec: schools, 6760; teachers, 14,000; pupils, 394,945; average attendance, 308,982; average per cent, 78.23. The same report shows an increase above the figures of the year previous of 7552 in the number of pupils. There has also been a considerable increase in the expenditure, due to grants for technical schools, and to the newly organized normal schools. The total government outlay for 1909-10 was $6,210,530, showing an increase above that of 1907-08 of $1,744,993. The contrast between the amount spent and the number of schools, teachers, and pupils, instead of signifying an inferior quality of education, testifies to the economy wrought by the employment of teaching religious orders, 5805 of whose members (out of a total of 14,000 teachers) are employed in the public schools. (For statistics regarding universities, classical colleges, and the several teaching orders, see CANADA.)

The accompanying table of comparative school statistics for the entire dominion was published officially by the Department of the Interior in 1908. (Those marked with an asterisk are estimated.)

  • Canada: 22,971 schools; 44,896 teachers; 1,214,457 pupils; 776,968 average attendance; $19,370,538 expenditures
  • Alberta: 1,070 schools; 1,171 teachers; 39,109 pupils; *17,311 average attendance; 282,205 expenditures
  • British Columbia: 422 schools; 816 teachers; 33,314 pupils; 23,558 average attendance; 1,220,509 expenditures
  • Manitoba (1907): 1,943 schools; 2,480 teachers; 67,144 pupils; 37,279 average attendance; 324,836 expenditures
  • New Brunswick: 1,828 schools; 1,903 teachers; 66,383 pupils; 38,584 average attendance; 776,320 expenditures
  • Nova Scotia: 2,516 schools; 2,664 teachers; 101,725 pupils; 58,343 average attendance; 1,215,500 expenditures
  • Ontario: *6,413 schools; *10,643 teachers; *478,549 pupils; *284,988 average attendance; *8,769,876 expenditures
  • Prince Edward Island: 476 schools; 580 teachers; 18,012 pupils; 11,646 average attendance; 176,092 expenditures
  • Quebec: 6,549 schools; 13,139 teachers; 372,599 pupils; 285,418 average attendance; 4,465,537 expenditures
  • Saskatchewan: 1,754 schools; 1,500 teachers; *37,622 pupils; *19,841 average attendance; *2,139,663 expenditures

Of the two oldest provinces of the dominion, Ontario and Quebec, the latter stands first as regards the number of schools, of teachers, and of average attendance, being inferior only in the number of pupils (irrespective of the ratio to each population), and in expenditure. About one-eleventh of the number of pupils in the province of Quebec are non-Catholics. The following table, based on the preceding statistics, shows the relative standing of each province of the dominion, according to the percentage of average attendance for 1908:

  • Alberta: 17,311 average attendance (44.26%)
  • British Columbia: 23,558 average attendance (70.71%)
  • Manitoba: 37,279 average attendance (55.52%)
  • New Brunswick: 38,584 average attendance (56.42%)
  • Nova Scotia: 58,343 average attendance (57.35%)
  • Ontario: 284,988 average attendance (59.55%)
  • Prince Edward Island: 11,646 average attendance (64.65%)
  • Quebec: 285,418 average attendance (76.36%)
  • Saskatchewan: 19,841 average attendance (52.73%)

Resource map. Department of the Interior, Dominion of Canada (Ottawa, 1908); Rapport du surintendant de l'instruction publique (Quebec, 1909); PAQUET, L'Eglise et l'éducation au Canada (Quebec, 1909); ANGLIN, Catholic Education in Canada in Catholic Educational Association Bulletin (Columbus, O., Aug., 1910); HOPKINS, Canada. An encyclopedia of the country (Toronto, 1898); Le Canada ecclésiastique (Montréal, 1911); Criminal Statistics (Ottawa, 1909).