Over the next few entries, I am going to do my best to help you understand the questions and the players involved in the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s in Québec. I will also pause at times to introduce you so some of the playwrights we will encounter in this period. I am going to keep these as short as possible.
The term Quiet Revolution was coined not because there was little change, but because there was an incredible amount of change that happened, and there was very little revolt.
The Revolution began in 1960 when the Liberal government, led by Jean Lesage, was elected and took over from the Union Nationale party. The Liberal party’s campaign tag line was “Il faut que ça change” (Things must change). The previous government, led by Maurice Duplessis, promoted conservative, traditional ideals and rejected contemporary thought. Lesage led Québec into a period of intense modernisation.
In particular, there were drastic changes with regards to the church and economic systems. Previously the church had significant influence over many political and cultural systems. During the Quiet Revolution, that began to change. By the 1980s, in fact, it was the state that symbolized Québec cultural in Canada; it was no longer the church. This is an important thing to keep in mind as you read through these various plays.
In 1964, Paul Gérin-Lajoie was appointment the first Minister of Education in Québec in almost 100 years. The church until that time had been responsible for administering the education system. Schools maintained their designation as Catholic or Protestant (which at one point meant Catholic French and Protestant English), but the education system was secularized. Laws around marriage and the roles of women also changed during this period, widening the gap between Church and State (legal recognition of equality of spouses and divorce being allowed!). Here are some good resources discussing the secularization of Québec:
Economically, Québec began to see itself as more self-reliant in the 1960s. Large government-controlled and public companies became symbols of Québec’s autonomy, its nationhood. One example is the centralization and expansion of Hydro-Québec that happened beginning in 1962 under René Lévesque, Lesage’s Minister of Natural Resources. The Quiet Revolution was a catalyst for plans to build more dams and turn Hydro-Québec into a literal powerhouse for the province. Here are some resources to help understand the economic reforms (the first one is a very good overview of the whole Quiet Revolution):
The book “Recent Social Trends in Canada 1960-2000” edited by Lance W. Roberts, Rodney A. Clifton, Barry Ferguson, Karen Kampen and Simon Langlois provides a broad overview of the changes that have occurred in those 40 years and is a good reading companion for these plays to get a sense of their contexts. – A.B., dramaturg