The Grande Noirceur (French pronunciation: [ɡɾãd nwaɾsœɾ], Great Darkness) is a name that refers to the conservative policies undertaken by the government of Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis in the 1936-1939 and 1944-1959 period.
Duplessis favoured rural areas over city development and introduced various agricultural credits during his first term. He also was noted for meagre investment in social services. Duplessis also opposed military conscription and Canadian involvement in World War II.
Support from the Church
Duplessis's party, the Union Nationale often had the active support of the Roman Catholic Church in its political campaigns and employed the slogan Le ciel est bleu; l'enfer est rouge: Heaven is blue (Union Nationale); hell is red (Liberal). Only during the labour strikes in the 1950s did the Church break with the Union Nationale by supporting the unions.
Duplessis championed anti-Communism and also opposed trade unions such as the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada (TLC). He introduced several laws that were criticised by the unions, most notably the Padlock Law, which initially was a law that would eliminate Communist propaganda.
In 1949, Duplessis also tried to introduce a copycat law of the U.S Taft-Hartley Act, created in 1947, which would have eliminated certain[clarification needed] rights for union groups that were acquired by the Labour Relations Law of 1944, the equivalent of the American Wagner Act of 1935. It was withdrawn due to the fierce opposition by union groups.
Duplessis later reintroduced a nearly similar law in 1954, known as Bill 19, that would force union groups to ban any members that supported Communism; any group would lose its trade-union accreditation if any there is a single member that had ties with Communist groups or supported the ideology. The party lost even the support of the Catholic union group and forced it to review its structure which would lead to the creation of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN).
During Duplessis' mandates, several significant labour strikes occurred such as the Dominion Textile in Valleyfield in 1946, the Asbestos Strike of 1949 in the Estrie region and the Murdochville copper mine strike in 1957. In those conflicts, Duplessis responded rapidly with force, using the provincial police to disperse picket lines and restore order. Several arrests were made in these conflicts. However, the latter led to a major victory to union groups which acquired several rights. The Murdochville strike also provided the impetus and inspiration for other labour leaders to emerge and future calls for labour rights to become vocalized.
Roncarelli v. Duplessis
Duplessis also actively opposed Jehovah's Witnesses and once used his influence to revoke a liquor license from one of their organizer's businesses. This decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada, Duplessis being ordered to pay $33,123.53 in damages. He died shortly thereafter.
Patronage and corruption
Duplessis' government was characterized by patronage and corruption, used to keep the Liberal opposition weak. He once proclaimed that a much-needed bridge at Trois-Rivières would not be built should a Liberal MNA be elected and kept his word while the opposition held the seat. In a rural district which had always elected a Liberal, the roads were kept unpaved, making it difficult for commerce and medicine to be transported, so the residents decided in 1956 to vote for the Union Nationale as that was the only way to get new roads constructed. He was also accused of vote-fixing. Contemporary rumors say that Union Nationale groups would arrive in rural towns armed with whiskey, food and appliances in exchange for votes.
Provincial autonomy and nationalism
On January 21, 1948, Duplessis made one of his most enduring contributions to Quebec with the adoption of an official Flag of Quebec, the Fleurdelisé, which replaced the Union Flag at the top of the Quebec Parliament Building.
- "Religion in Canada - Politics" article at Université Laval website. Accessed 2011-06-10.
- http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/features/murdochville.html[dead link]