Quebec is the largest province in Canada, with an area of 1,450,680 square kilometres. Quebec is bordered by Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and several American states. The St. Lawrence River is the province’s central geographical feature, and links the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. The St. Lawrence lowlands are dotted with more than a million lakes and rivers. Hudson’s Bay dominates the northwestern portion of the province, and Quebec’s northern forests are some of the largest in the world.
Quebec was originally inhabited the Algonquin and Iroquois Aboriginal people in the south and the Inuit in the north. The Europeans arrived with French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1534, and the thriving fur trade brought many French and British colonists. Quebec City, founded in 1608, became the capital of New France and was built into a fortified city, the only one north of Mexico City. The French-English rivalry in North America led to the Seven Years’ War which saw the fall of Quebec City to British forces in 1759, when New France became a colony of Britain. Britain did, however, agree to protect the French language and culture in this colony. In 1791, the colony was split to create Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada. In 1867, the province of Quebec was created as a founding member of the new Dominion of Canada.
Throughout Quebec’s history, the survival of the French culture has been central to the concerns of Quebecois and contributes to Canada’s bilingual character and cultural richness. French continues to be the dominant language in the province, as mandated by the province’s strict language legislation. Today, almost 80 percent of Quebecois live in urban centres located along the St. Lawrence River. Its largest city is Montreal, with a metropolitan area population of over 4.3 million. Quebec City (with just over 850,000 area residents) is the province’s capital and third-largest city.
The province’s economy has abundant natural resources and energy, as well as strong agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors.
The province’s resources are spread throughout the province, with its hydro-electric energy capacity in its east and its far north. The extensive mining and forestry is spread around the province. The agriculture is primarily along the warmer St Lawrence River valley.
Montreal, though not the provincial capital, has developed into its economic centre.
Quebec’s dynamic manufacturing sector produces a wide variety of products including air traffic control equipment, software, subway trains, helicopters, compact disks, air purifiers and toys. Montreal has several strong companies in space and aeronautics, telecommunications, energy and transportation. Quebec exports 40 percent of its total production, mainly from the forest industry (printing, lumber and paper), mining (aluminium and iron ore) and transportation equipment manufacturing. Quebec also exports electricity, engineering know-how, electronic products and telecommunications equipment.
With the province’s old world charm, sophisticated cities and vast outdoor activity, tourism is an important part of Quebec’s economy. The many festivals and cultural activities make Quebec a popular tourist destination.