A prevailing vision of Quebec’s recent past involves a unilingual English-speaking “boss” class ruling above an underpaid Francophone working class.
Aspects of the model do apply historically, especially in some of Quebec’s “company towns.” Indeed, since the mid-1800s, English-speakers planned and established several communities throughout the province, including Chandler, Arvida, Kenogami, Shawinigan Falls, Asbestos, Temiscaming, and others.
However, a closer look at these and other company towns reveal that the Anglophone-dominance narrative is too simplistic. English-speakers from all classes were present in these communities from early on. Many companies sought to provide good living and working conditions. Finally, when we look at former company towns today, we see that some old economic inequalities have been upended, with Anglophones facing higher unemployment rates and lower indicators of community vitality than Francophones.
Writer and historian Louisa Blair’s great-great-grandfather Robert Blair was an early settler in a company town along the Saguenay. She tells the story of how he was hired by entrepreneur William Price to run a farm and sawmill for the loggers and mill workers of the Price Brothers company. Louisa Blair also looks at traces remaining today of the early Blair family presence in the region.
Louisa Blair at the Morrin Centre, Quebec City, November 8, 2017.
Louisa Blair, PhD, is a writer and editor and describes herself as a maudite anglophone québécoise de souche. Author of The Anglos: The Hidden Face of Quebec City 1608-1850, she lives in Quebec City, where she was born.
Baldwin, Alice Sharples. The Price Family: Pioneers of the Saguenay, 1978.
Bouchard, Gérard. “Les Saguenayens et les immigrants au début du 20e siècle : légitime défense ou xénophobie.” Canadian Ethnic Studies/Études ethniques au Canada Vol. 21, no. 3 (1989): 20–36.
Bouchard, Russell. “Chicoutimi : un fondateur controversé.” Cap-aux-Diamants No. 29 (Printemps 1992): 28–31.
Igartua, José E. Arvida Au Saguenay: Naissance d’une ville industrielle. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996.
Kremenliev, Gregor. “The Company and the Town: A History of the Pulp and Paper Town of Chandler, Quebec, 1912-1971.” M.A. Thesis, Concordia University, 1976.
Laroche, Pierre. L’anglophonie au Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean : de communauté industrielle à communauté de langues officielles. Chicoutimi : Éditions Félix, 1998.
Morisset, Lucie K. Arvida, Cité Industrielle: Une épopée urbaine en Amérique. Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 1998.
Nadeau Paradis, Sandra. “La petite bourgeoisie de La Tuque et son rôle dans l’exercice du pouvoir local, 1907-1939.” Master’s thesis, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 2015.
…or read more about English-speakers in Quebec’s industrial economy in our bibliography.