The crown jewel of French Canada
French explorers began coming to Quebec as early as the 16th century. Jacques Cartier arrived in Gaspe, Quebec in 1534, claiming the land for France, even though the area had been inhabited for thousands of years by Amerindians and the Inuit. In 1608, Samuel de Champlain claimed the land on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, which the Aboriginals called Kébec.
In 1642, Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve founded a Catholic mission that he named Ville-Marie and which would become Montréal at the end of the 18th century. Between 1660 and 1713 New France expanded rapidly. In 1759, however, the French under General Montcalm found themselves defeated by the British army General Wolfe in the notorious Battle of the Plains of Abraham. In 1763 the Treaty of Paris was signed and the King of France ceded to the British crown “Canada and all its dependencies.” Significant immigration on the part of English, Irish and Scottish settlers to British North America began.
By the end of the 18th century British North America had two provinces: Upper Canada (Ontario, English speaking) and Lower Canada (Quebec, French speaking). In 1867 the federation of the provinces became known as Canada. Until the early 20th century Quebec depended predominantly on its agricultural and natural resources such as forestry. Industrialization meant that many people migrated to the cities, and by the 1960's debates about the role of the French language were centre stage. In 1976, Parti Québécois, led by René Lévesque, swept to power in Quebec. In referendums held in 1980, and again in 1995, the people of Québec voted against a proposal for sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada.