Exuberant and imaginative, Québecers have a culture that’s unique in North America. An exciting history, a vast and diverse land, nature as far as the eye can see: discover Québec in all of its originality!
Located at the northeastern tip of North America, Québec covers 1,667,926 km2—more than a quarter of the total surface area of Canada’s ten provinces. Its territory stretches eastwards from Ontario all the way to New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, and nearly 2,000 km north from the U.S. border to the Arctic Ocean.
Land of contrasts
With its southern latitudes bisected by the St. Lawrence (one of the largest rivers on earth), Québec is graced with an incredible variety of landscapes: a fertile fluvial plain between the Laurentian Mountains to the north and the Appalachian Mountains to the south; and wide swaths of forest, taiga and tundra, dotted with over a million lakes and thousands of rivers.
In Québec, it’s hot in summer and cold in winter—although the air is generally dry and not quite as glacial as you may think! Québec has four distinct seasons marked by significant temperature variations as well as three kinds of climate:
- Humid continental south of the 50th parallel (forest)
- Subarctic between the 50th and 58th parallels (taiga)
- Arctic above the 58th parallel (tundra)
Average temperatures (ºC)
It’s a small world, but Québec is big! Always check distances (which may appear shorter on the map) and travel times before setting out. In winter, be sure to factor in the weather and road conditions as well!
Québec’s coastline extends for some 6000 km and includes the Gulf of St. Lawrence as well as three immense bays—Ungava, Hudson and James—that are veritable inland seas.
Sent on an expedition by Francis I, King of France, Jacques Cartier arrived at Gaspé in 1534, taking possession of lands that had been inhabited for hundreds of years by Amerindians and the Inuit. In 1608, Samuel de Champlain made landfall on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River at a spot the Aboriginals called Kébec. In 1642, Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve founded a Catholic mission that he named Ville-Marie—a settlement that, by the end of the 18th century, would be known as Montréal.
Old crown, new crown
During the Seven Years’ War, the army led by General Wolfe laid siege to Québec. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham marked the defeat of the French General Montcalm on September 13, 1759 and with it, the fall of New France. The taking of power by the British opened the door to immigration from England, Ireland and Scotland. In 1791, the Constitutional Act established two provinces in British North America: Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Québec), which had a French-speaking majority. In 1867, the British North America Act created the federation of provinces that were to become known as Canada.
The road to modern times
Until the early 20th century, Québec’s economy was based heavily on forestry and agriculture. The 1960s were marked by the Quiet Revolution, which paved the way for a decade of debates on the predominant role of the French language. In 1976, the Parti Québécois, led by René Lévesque, was swept to power. However, during the referendums held in 1980 and again in 1995, Québec’s electorate voted against sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada.
Louis Jolliet, La Vérendrye and Pierre Lemoyne D’Iberville and his brothers, 17th- and 18th-century explorers whose names are known along the entire length of the Mississippi, were all born in New France. They were among the very first to penetrate the continent’s vast interior from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Great Lakes. A remarkable itinerary!
Deeply rooted in North America and fiercely proud of its French heritage, Québec is a delightful blend of the Old and New Worlds, famous for its unique sophistication and joie de vivre!
A proud heritage
The vast majority of Québec’s approximately eight million people live close to the St. Lawrence. More than 85,000 Amerindians belonging to 10 different nations and 11,500 Inuit live in some 50 communities across the province. French is the dominant language here, although English is widely spoken or understood, particularly in the cities. Québec’s dual Catholic/Protestant heritage is in ample evidence, especially in its religious architecture and art.
The creative impulse
Through its history and culture, Québec has forged a distinctive identity that’s as unaffected as it is unique. Its people enjoy fine dining and are always ready for a good time. A melting pot of European and North American influences, Québec also boasts incredible cultural vitality—as witnessed by the effervescence of its theatre, circus and visual arts scenes.
Known as the Fleurdelisé, Québec’s flag was flown for the first time over Québec City’s Parliament Building in 1948. The fleurs-de-lis or lilies are a legacy of French royalty and date back over 1,000 years. The royal blue background is a reminder of the coat of arms of the ruling sovereigns at the time of colonial New France.
Coat of arms and motto
The Québec coat of arms features three gold fleurs-de-lis on a blue background, symbolizing the French regime; a gold leopard on a red background, symbolizing the British regime; and a branch with three maple leaves, symbolizing Canada. Below the shield is a banner with the motto Je me souviens (I remember). Adopted in 1939, the motto is reproduced today on the province’s licence plates.
The iris known as the blue flag (Iris versicolor Linne) became Québec’s floral emblem on October 28, 1999, replacing the white lily (Lilium candidum). The heraldic fleur-de-lis on the Québec flag was long considered the floral emblem of Québec.
The snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) was chosen as Québec’s official bird in 1987. The bird symbolizes the white of Québec’s winters and its roots in a semi-Nordic climate. It also refers to the species’ presence across the province as well as environmental protection and nature conservation.
The yellow birch (Betula alleghianensis Britton) was chosen as Québec's official tree in 1993. Not only is it one of the province’s best-known fine woods, it’s also noteworthy for the variety of ways in which it can be used and its high market value.
Cirque du Soleil is one of Québec’s best-known ambassadors abroad. Established over 30 years ago, its reputation—built on breathtaking productions that have redefined the art of the circus—extends today to every corner of the globe.