Bordered by Ontario, New Brunswick and Labrador (the mainland portion of the province of Newfoundland) and by the United States, Québec is the largest of Canada’s provinces. The majority of people in Québec live in urban centres located along the St. Lawrence River. Montréal and its suburbs have a population of over three million. Québec City, with a much smaller population, is the province’s capital.
The climate of landlocked Québec is one of bold contrast. Summer months (June to August) are hot with cooler evenings. Autumn and Spring are cooler, while winters are very cold and snowy.
Of a total population of about seven million, Québec has more than five million people of French origin, 350,000 of British origin and about 137,000 of First Nations (Mohawk, Cree, Montagnais, Algonquin, Attikamek, Mi’Kmaq, Huron, Abenaki and Naskapi), Métis and Inuit. Since the end of World War II, more than 650,000 immigrants from over 80 countries have moved to Québec, particularly to the city of Montréal. French is the mother tongue of 83 percent of people, while approximately 10 percent cite English as their first language.
Because of some uncommon history, the French spoken in Canada is not the same as the language of France. The local version is known commonly as Québecois, although Québeckers will understand formal French. But language is not the only unique feature that distinguishes Québec from English Canada. The French influence of Québec can be seen in architecture, music, food, religion and much more.
As the largest French-speaking enclave in North America, Québec is very distinct from the rest of the continent – so distinct that it boasts the strongest independence movement in North America. This movement is not new. It dates back to France’s surrender of the colony of New France to Britain in 1760. Although this political tension is very prevalent, Québec has not often seen the violence typically associated with these sorts of struggles throughout the world.
Québec’s economy is a very substantial force, represented by natural resources, energy, agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors. Québec’s business sector adapts quickly and produces a wide variety of high technology products for export, such as air traffic control equipment, software, subway trains, helicopters, and compact disks. Montréal has competitive industries in space and aeronautics, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, energy and transportation.
Québec exports almost half of its total production, with the majority being forest related (printing, lumber and paper), mining (aluminum and iron ore) and transportation equipment. Québec also provides electricity, electronic and telecommunications products. International exports now account for one fifth of the province’s gross domestic product.