Quebec during the first half of the 1900s was extremely conservative. The Roman Catholic Church held a huge amount of power. After the Great Depression, Canada was shifting its gear to centralisation. However, Quebec, being the conservative province it was, didn’t support this shifting. To ensure that Quebec remains conservative, it elected a new leader: Maurice Duplessis. This man was in power from 1936 to 1939, and then into power in 1944 till death (1959).
Duplessis believed there were two main points that would protect Quebec from centralisation:
- A provincial government entrusted to a party completely divorced from the federal parties (that often considered their provincials counterparts as under their control); in this respect, Duplessis led the Union Nationale Party, a party completely independent from any other party; it was the only “all Quebec” party in the province
- Insistence on the respect of the autonomy, fiscal or otherwise, of the province
Duplessis had a ‘banker’s conception of centralisation. He saw himself as the guardian, indeed the custodian, of the traditional values
and of the culture of the people of Quebec. As the Premier of the French-Catholic province, he was given a sacred trust to safeguard these values and to keep them away from those who would do harm to them, change them to assimilate the people of his province into the foreign and “liberal” culture of the world that surrounded the province. Plus, if Quebec were to become centralised, then it would need to share its wealth with the rest of Canada, i.e. lose money. He also disapproved the formation of trade unions because of its communist ideologies. In essence, he didn’t want Quebec to change at all; extremely conservative.
He wrote the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Constitutional Problems, which is a report describing the problems of taxation and constitutional problems of Canada. There were 4 main points in this report:
- By using an inordinate proportion of the tax allocation that far exceeded the cost of federal services;
- By invading fields of exclusive provincial jurisdiction mainly through conditional subsidies;
- By securing amendments to the constitution without the consent of the provinces “as parties to the original agreement.”
- By using federal revenues institutions to encourage social, cultural and educational uniformity in Canada; this was called federal “imperialism” and would result in the imposition of a cultural system incapable of oppressing American influence in the future
Some in Quebec did not want Duplessis to be in power for such a long time. Some people wanted to change, i.e. not as conservative as Duplessis was. However, back during this time period, the Roman Catholic Church held unbelievable power. The Church was pro-conservative, and thus Duplessis was able to stay in power, no matter the opposition. Not only that, the Church had much power over the education of people. Cleverly, the Church purposely did not teach their students about critical thinking or any advanced studies, in case their students question whether God is real or not, and start rebelling.
The period in which Duplessis was was in rule of Quebec was referred to as “The Great Darkness,” because there were many secrets and important facts kept away from the public; an era of corruption where Quebec made no social, political or economical advancements. In other words, Quebec was left in the dark.