Summer 1960: beginning of a great revolution agitated

ete-1960-marque-debut-revolution(Quebec) In Quebec, the summer of 1960 marks the beginning of the Quiet Revolution, with the election of Jean Lesage’s Liberals, June 22 But for the capital, it’s a real shock. Please fasten your seat belts, we cross a major turbulence.

Welcome to a world where elections sometimes look like a gangster movie. Dozens of people voting under false identities. Ballot boxes disappear, only to reappear as if by magic. In hot areas, mastodons tour the motorcycle polls to intimidate voters. Sometimes even direct the police ripoux fraud operations!

Are you landed in Chicago, to the glory days of Al Capone? Or in a dark banana republic, for re-election of a dictator operetta, wearing sandals and Hawaiian shirt?

Not at all. You are in Quebec, the elections of 22 June 1960.

In July, MacLean’s magazine published a report entitled shock “I sold my vote 20 times.” Journalist Breslin Cathie explains how she voted 20 times, 22 June Ms. Breslin was offered $ 25 for filing false ballots at the polls, for the candidate of the National Union in the Montreal riding of Laurier. The “Blues” want to defeat liberal star. A … René Lévesque.

On election day, Ms. teach is how to file four newsletters both in the ballot box without much suspicion. The odds of getting caught are slim, since the fraud taking place under the eyes of police accomplices! During the day, the journalist crosses sixty people who received the same mission it.

In the evening, Cathie Breslin asks his cronies if fraud is a specialty of the National Union. It assures that the Liberals use similar tactics!

The general view, Ms. Breslin does not know his luck. The 1960 elections were quieter than usual. The real problems are limited to a dozen districts. No more.

Nothing like the good old days …

Panic in the capital

Back to 22 June 1960. At the close of polls, the fight promises to be very tight. For long hours, the National Union and the Liberal Party are running neck and neck. It was not until 11:48 p.m. until The Canadian Press confirms the Liberal victory of Jean Lesage.

The night will be short. Especially in Quebec. In the morning, panic seized several ministries. The atmosphere vaguely reminiscent of Rome before the attack of the Visigoths. The National Union holds power for 16 years. Many officials have never known a liberal administration.

The new Prime Minister Jean Lesage does nothing to calm concerns. The Catholic Action reports that he arrived in parliament at the end of the morning. Mr. immediately convenes Deputy Ministers to remind them they are responsible for government documents. He fears that his opponents do away important documents.

Police officers soon stand guard around the buildings on Parliament Hill. The briefcase is searched at least one Minister of National Union. Jean Lesage orders stopping the distribution of checks and contracts. Several projects are paralyzed, the time that is carried out checks on the legality of contracts. This is not surprising. Throughout the campaign, the Liberals repeated the slogan “National Union = Union of scandals”.

On July 5, Jean Lesage and his team take the oath. “What has just happened is a change of government, says the premier. It is a change of life. ”

Carried away by emotion, guests hardly notice that the Red Room was decorated with giant palms. Who cares that the Quiet Revolution starts in a decor vaguely reminiscent of that of the film La Florida?

30 days that shook Quebec
Over the following weeks, the reforms and changes initiated by the new team make history. Le Devoir refers to these as “30 days that undermine Quebec.” But at the time, many Quebecers do not expect a big fuss. On the eve of the elections, only 16% of citizens were “very interested” in Quebec politics.

On July 7, The Sun notes that “the calm seems to have returned in the civil service [public service].” The new ministers were presented to officials. Apparently the great purge will not occur even if a hundred employees are the subject of sharp enough checks.

Missing fear is the candor of the new ministers that feeds the conversations. The Minister of Public Works, René Lévesque, affords an amazing compliment, about a high official. “When he gives me explanations, he must repeat twice for me to understand. It is so bright. ”

In mid-July, the new team is already overwhelmed. The Sun notes that “the mail mired Ministries”. Jean Lesage received more than 5000 letters and telegrams, since his election. A minister counted 2,500 letters to which it must respond. Another calculates that it would take four full months just to meet people who have asked to see …

“Everything was measured, sleep, time, interviews, except the magnitude and the number of applications,” wrote the Attorney General George-Émile Lapalme in his memoirs. He forgot to mention the surprises. On 3 August, Mr. Lapalme is stunned to hear a prosecutor entrust it could easily become a millionaire with all the jars of wine offered to him …

Not sure that the newly elected have plenty of free time to go hear Félix Leclerc in Sainte-Petronille, on 13 July. Nor to skim cabarets of downtown, experiencing boom years. On August 5, a young singer debuted the box to the songs of Gérard Thibault.

His name is Gilles Vigneault.

Sling and freedom

In this summer like no other, it floats on Quebec a new wind. Not a week passes without the issue of new rights. And new freedoms.

On 17 June, the Council authorizes the dance in local cabarets. A small revolution. The Catholic Action soon deplores “the end of a tradition that goes far back in the history of New France.” Wasted effort: the population is already elsewhere.

On 7 July, the deputy police chief, Gerard Girard laments that women continue to walk around dressed in sundresses and shorts, in contravention of Regulation 784 “on decency and morality.”

In general, the police are content to distribute a copy of the bylaw. According to Girard, many women “read the opening lines and then tear the pamphlet and threw him to the street.”

In August, the national president of the French-Canadian Catholic Youth, Alban Coutu, is a severe judgment on his time. “Our youth is not interested to business,” he says. According to him, young people suffer “indifference” or even “selfish.”

But who listens?

Even the Democratic candidate for the US presidency, John F. Kennedy, plays slingers. As soon elected on 15 July, the “young” Catholic candidate unveiled its colors with a powerful statement: “Those who want security and mediocrity of the past should not vote for me.”

Time travel

Still, the future of the traveler is not totally out of place by summer 1960.

In June, school elections are generating interest by side with the absolute zero. In the cities of the greater Quebec City area, all commissioners are elected by acclamation, for lack of opponent. Only in the city of Thetford an election is necessary.

In July, Quebec City, the construction of two high-rise buildings on the Grande Allée is controversial. Emergency … It demands a development plan. In mid-September the Chamber of Commerce calls for “serious study” on the construction of a tunnel linking Quebec to the South Shore.

Difficult to conclude without recalling the spectacular blunder “experts” of The Canadian Press at the election night of June 22, 1960. What cure you forever of the temptation to predict the political future.

On the eve of the start of the Quiet Revolution, one of the greatest upsets in the history of Quebec, “analysis” of 22 June 1960 was as follows: “We do not expect the Liberal victory brings immediate changes to the province. ”

To know more

> Éric Bédard, June 22, 1960 – The election of Jean Lesage, “a life-changing,” pronounced Montéral conference, March 28, 2013?.

> Pierre Godin, René Lévesque: reluctant hero (1960-1976), Boreal 1997.

> Jacques Lacoursière, People’s History of Quebec (Volume V), North, 2008.

> George-Émile Lapalme, Paradise power, Memoirs

(Volume III) Leméac 1973.

> Jean-Marie Lebel, Chronic Capital: 1608-2008 Québec, Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2008.

The summer of 1960 in figures
11:48 p.m.

Time when The Canadian Press (CP) announces the Liberal victory on June 22


Number of ballot boxes considered that briefly disappeared

in the riding of Dorchester, in the elections of 22 June

$ 7 million

Estimated cost of Place Fleur de Lys, at the official announcement of its construction on September 15


Those arrested

for attempting to vote with a false identity in the Montreal area. In Quebec,

two people will be charged with the same kind of electoral fraud

$ 1,500

Salary of a councilor of the City


$ 1

Cost of the ticket to see the show of Michel Louvain cabaret

at Gerard, 17 June


Minutes notice that the United States now have in case of nuclear attack from the Soviet Union through a new ballistic missile detection system


Support a performance of Felix Leclerc in Sainte-Petronille, 13 July


Proportion of Quebec students who leave school before the age of 15 years. Barely 15% of Quebecers hold the equivalent of a high school diploma

$ 13,500

Cost of a bungalow 6 1/2 rooms in Sainte-Foy


Number of illegal alcohol outlets, a distance of approximately 45 kilometers between Joliette and Québec.


Proportion of Quebec households that own a TV


Pages of a leaflet entitled “Your basement shelter against nuclear fallout,” tabled in the House of Commons by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in June. The document explains how to turn their basement bomb shelter.

The Stopru