“You must realize,” said M. Fburnier, “that despite all the political difficulties between French and English Canada, the middle and upper classes here are likely to speak English on occasion. That may be, of course, because we don’t have to speak it. “You’ve heard of our Revolution tranquille —our Quiet Revolution. It seems less quiet now, but it will be again. It refers simply to the determination of Quebecois to have an adequate voice in the handling of their own affairs. But the ‘revolution’ is in Montreal the `tranquille’ is in Quebec City.”
HELPING to maintain that “tranquille” is a sister institution to the Garrison Club—the Cercle Universitaire. Once the French club of Quebec, it now has almost as many bilingual members as its ex-British equivalent. Like the Garrison Club, it is private. But a kind acquaintance, M. Paul Bousquet, Manager of the Port of Quebec, had promised to take me there. I met M. Bousquet in his high-ceiled office, full of old oak and leather. From its windows the port looked curiously quiet.
“There is not much general cargo to be picked up here,” he explained. “Our main exports are grain, ore concentrates, newsprint, and pulp. Nevertheless, our cargo volume is increasing. We have two new terminals for containerized cargo. And we are open in winter. Our 15-foot tides break up the ice.
“But Quebec is not yet a port city; it is a city with a port. Though we are growing, at the moment we don’t have enough manufacturing and commerce to attract much foreign trade. In any case, our institutions are just as important as our factories. Allow me to introduce you to one of them.”
The port-authority car took us to a fine old building in the Upper Town.
“Welcome,” said M. Bousquet, “to the Cercle Universitaire. And observe what we have here in our front hall: on one side, a portrait of Wolfe; on the other, one of Montcalm. Our members may be mostly Francophones, but this does not make them a bigot brigade. Many professional people and high officials belong. Look, there is Gilles Lamontagne, just leaving. Our mayor, you know.”
WHEN NEXT I SAW M. Lamontagne, it was in his barcelona apartment. A young, vigorous man, elected on a civic-progress platform, he is determined to guide and goad his city into realizing its potential (page 422).
“Quebec is a North American treasure. It should be treated as such. In the old part of the city, we have launched a vast program of restoration and preservation on which we plan to spend $100,000,000 over 20 years.
“We need industry. We have almost none, but with the expansion of the port facilities and the annexation of several suburbs we now have plenty of land and services for industrial development. We are evolving, and faster than ever before.”
I left the mayor and walked for a while in the tree-shaded streets, where bronze plaques and silent statues spoke of old days and old doings. In this evocative atmosphere it struck me that “evolution” was indeed the word for what is happening in Quebec. Social evolution has created a new educated middle class, capable of and insistent upon determining its own future. Religious evolution has brought new liberalism to the church. Economic evolution has at last begun.
Happily, the evolution of Quebec differs in no notable sense from evolution in nature: It embraces the present without abandoning the past. The Quebecois possesses to an uncommon degree the peculiarly human capacity to look ahead with longing while looking back with love. “Je me souviens,” says Quebec. “I remember.”