Pure laine

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Samuel de Champlain was a French explorer who established the earliest French settlements in what is now Quebec.

The French term pure laine (lit.'pure wool' or 'genuine', often translated as 'old stock' or 'dyed-in-the-wool'), refers to Québécois people of full French Canadian ancestry, meaning those descended from the original settlers of New France who arrived during the 17th and 18th centuries.[1][2] Terms with a similar meaning include de souche (of the base of the tree, or root)[3] and old stock as in "Old Stock Canadians".[4]

Many French-Canadians are able to trace their ancestry back to the original settlers from France— a number are descended from mixed marriages between the French, Scottish and Irish settlers.[5] Unions sharing Roman Catholic faith were approved by the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec. Many English emigrants in the region, especially after 1763 when Quebec was ceded to Britain, were ultimately assimilated into Francophone culture.

The term is associated with nativism and ethnic nationalism in Quebec, and its usage has been criticized for excluding immigrants from Québécois identity and culture.[6][7]


The King's Daughters (les filles du roi) were among the first French women to settle in New France, becoming the ancestors of many claiming pure laine ancestry.

The genealogy of the pure laine – dating back to original settlers of New France in the seventeenth century – has been the subject of detailed research.[8][9] Prior to 1663 the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal recruited women to come to Montreal, then known as Ville-Marie.[10]: 8  King Louis XIV – following the advice of Jean Talon, Intendant of New France – sponsored about 800 female immigrants the King's Daughters or les filles du Roi to increase the number of marriages and therefore the population of New France.[11][12] The Sisters of Notre-Dame facilitated their settling in Ville-Marie. In his 1992 PhD dissertation Yves Landry listed 770 of the approximately 800 by name.[8]

From the seventeenth century into the twentieth century, French Canadians lived in relative geographic and linguistic isolation.[13] Their "settlements, internal migrations, and natural population increase" were well-documented[13] with "3 million records covering the whole province of Quebec over four centuries."[14] By 2015 "extended pedigrees of up to 17 generations" were constructed from "a sample of present-day individuals."[14] In an article published in 2001 in the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics, McGill University professor Charles R. Scriver, observed there is "important evidence of social transmission of demographic behavior [sic] that contributed to effective family size and population structure."[13] Founder populations, like the descendants of the early French immigrants, have an important role in the study of genetic diseases.[14][15] With an unusually high prevalence of genetic disorders in the subpopulations of Quebec, they became the subject of human genetics research.[13] Clusters of hereditary disorders in eastern Quebec in the twentieth century were traced to immigrants from Perche, France who arrived in the seventeenth century.

Catholic priest and historian Lionel Groulx (1878–1967) was the key figure behind the rise of Quebec nationalism which stressed "territoriality and the use of the Quebec state" in the first half of the twentieth century. Jean Éthier-Blais claimed that among Quebec nationalist intellectuals the twentieth century was Groulx century — "le siècle de l'abbé Groulx."[16] Groulx's best-known novel L'Appel de la race, challenged the narrative surrounding French-English relationships in Quebec and revisited the history of Canada from a French Canadian perspective.[17] In the 1920s following the publication of this novel, French Canadian nationalism "espoused the thought of Lionel Groulx", retained Catholicism and abandoned Henri Bourassa's pan-Canadian perspective.[16] In 1998, Xavier Gélinas, then-Curator at the Canadian Museum of History (French: Musée canadien de l’histoire), then known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, presented a talk at a conference on Quebec history in which he argued that even in the 1980s Groulxism remained as an important ideology among Quebecois.[16] Groulx's work is considered to be a contributing factor to the Quiet Revolution in 1960 even though the Quebec nationalism of the révolution tranquille was "a-religious and ethnically pluralistic."[16] Expressions such as Canadiens français pure laine, Québécois pure laine or révolution tranquille became powerful evocative symbols charged with ideology and identity.[18]: 18  Gélinas challenged the thesis of French Canadian historian Esther Delisle whom he described as pure laine. Delisle's controversial PhD political science dissertation and the book entitled The Traitor and the Jew based on her thesis,[19][20] argued that Groulx and the newspaper Le Devoir were antisemitic and supported fascism.[16]

Controversy and Debate[edit]

The use of pure laine was brought to the forefront following its controversial usage in the front-page article by Jan Wong in Canada's nationally distributed newspaper, The Globe and Mail on September 16, 2006, three days after the shooting at Dawson College in Montreal.[21] In her article entitled "Get under the desk," Wong argued that the frequent and historic use of the term pure laine revealed a uniquely Québécois brand of racism. "Elsewhere, to talk of racial 'purity' is repugnant. Not in Quebec." Furthermore, she suggested that the school shootings might have been related to the fact that the perpetrators were not old-stock French Québécois and they had been alienated by a Quebec society concerned with "racial purity."[22][23][24][25]

Wong's accusations were denounced by National Post journalist, Barbara Kay, then-Premier Jean Charest and the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste (SSJB). SSJB President Jean Dorion declared "There is no obsession for racial purity in Quebec, definitely not. The expression 'pure laine' is absolutely obsolete."[25]

However the term was still frequently used in both English and French media.[26][27][28] And in 2007, the Taylor-Bouchard Commission included the recommendation that the use of the expression "Québécois de souche" be ended and replaced with the term "Quebecers of French-Canadian origin."[29] The Commission investigated reasonable accommodation of immigrants into Quebec society.

According to David Austin, author of Fear of a Black Nation (2013), which was based on Austin's two decades of inquiry including interviews and international archival research,[3]

Québecois has conventionally been used to signify the descendants of Québec settlers from France, the majority habitants of the province, who are otherwise referred to as pure laine (pure wool) or Québécois de souche (of the base of the tree, or root). However, the changing face of Québec's increasingly diverse population challenges the privileged place of those French descendants and calls for a more inclusive notion of what it means to be Québécois or a Quebecer.

Similar terms in English[edit]

Old-stock Canadians[edit]

The English-Canadian equivalent to pure laine is "old stock", referring to the descendants of those original settlers of British Canada and French Canada who immigrated in the 17th and 18th centuries. Liberal MP Stéphane Dion used the term in 2014: "If I'm fishing with a friend on a magnificent lake in the Laurentians ... and I see a small boat in the distance ... usually it's two middle-aged old-stock French-Canadians or English-Canadians."[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "pure laine". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. ^ Hopper, Tristin (20 September 2015). "Taking stock of 'old stock Canadians': Stephen Harper called a 'racist' after remark during debate". National Post. Toronto. Retrieved 28 January 2017. "pure laine" (pure wool), a term to describe someone whose lineage is 100 per cent derived from New France settlers.
  3. ^ a b Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal. Toronto: Between the Lines. 2013. p. 255. ISBN 9781771130103.
  4. ^ Tu Thanh Ha (13 March 2015). "Of wool and old stocks: When is a Québécois not a Québécois?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  5. ^ "Québec History". Québec City Tourism. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  6. ^ Agnew, Vijay (2005-01-01). Diaspora, Memory and Identity: A Search for Home. University of Toronto Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-8020-9374-5. The term pure laine ('old stock', literally 'pure wool') is sometimes taken to be synonymous with Québécois, a term ... and belonging in recent years in Quebec; many find the idea and its linking with Québécois identity and culture to be racist
  7. ^ Kelly, Jennifer (1998). Under the Gaze: Learning to be Black in White Society. Fernwood Pub. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-895686-21-0. So we find that this new racism is produced as part of a general political move that aligns "race" with national and cultural ... a challenge that posits "ethnic groups" as interlopers—not the "pure laine"—who have no right to participate.
  8. ^ a b Landry, Yves (1992). Orphelines en France, pionnieres au Canada, les filles du Roi au XVIIe siecle (Thesis). Montreal.
  9. ^ Haines, Michael R.; Steckel, Richard H. (15 August 2000). A Population History of North America. Cambridge University Press. p. 736. ISBN 0521496667.
  10. ^ Beaudoin, Marie-Louise; Sévigny, Jeannine (1996). "Les premières et les filles du roi à Ville-Marie". Montreal: Maison Saint-Gabriel. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ Lanctot, Gustave (1952). "Filles de joie ou filles du roi". Montreal: Les Éditions Chantecler Ltée. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Landry, Yves (1992). "Orphelines en France pionnières au Canada: Les filles du roi au XVIIe siècle". Montreal: Leméac Éditeur Inc. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ a b c d Scriver, Charles R. (September 2001). "Human Genetics: Lessons from Quebec Populations". Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics. 2: 69–101. doi:10.1146/annurev.genom.2.1.69. PMID 11701644.
  14. ^ a b c Gauvin, H.; Lefebvre, J. F.; Moreau, C.; Lavoie, E. M.; Labuda, D.; Vézina, H.; Roy-Gagnon, M. (May 2015). "GENLIB: an R package for the analysis of genealogical data". BMC Bioinformatics. 16 (160): 160. doi:10.1186/s12859-015-0581-5. PMC 4431039. PMID 25971991.
  15. ^ de Braekeleer, Marc; Dao, To-Nga (April 1994). "Hereditary Disorders in the French Canadian Population of Québec. II. Contribution of Perche". Human Biology. Wayne State University Press. 66 (2): 225–249. JSTOR 41464974. PMID 8194845.
  16. ^ a b c d e Gélinas, Xavier (8 October 1998). Notes on Anti-Semitism Among Quebec Nationalists, 1920-1970: Methodological Failings, Distorted Conclusions. Studies in Quebec History: Seminar Series of the Department of History of Queen's University. Gatineau, Quebec. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  17. ^ Groulx, Lionel (1922). L'Appel de la race. Montréal: L'Action française. p. 278. ISBN 9782762138887.
  18. ^ Mathieu, Jacques; Lacoursière, Jacques (1991). Les mémoires québécoises. Presses Université Laval. ISBN 2-7637-7229-3.
  19. ^ Delisle, Esther (1993). The Traitor and the Jew: Anti-Semitism and the Delirium of Extremist Right-Wing Nationalism in French Canada from 1929-1939 (Antisémitisme et nationalisme d'extrême-droite dans la province de Québec 1929-1939). R. Davies Pub. ISBN 1-895854-01-6.
  20. ^ Delisle, Esther (1998). Myths, Memories & Lies: Quebec's Intelligentsia and the Fascist Temptation, 1939-1960 (Essais sur l'imprégnation fasciste au Québec). R. Davies Multimedia. ISBN 1-55207-008-5.
  21. ^ Wong, Jan (September 16, 2006). "Get under the desk". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved September 20, 2006.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "Charest seeks Globe apology over notion culture a factor in school shootings", Canadian Press via The Gazette, September 19, 2006, retrieved September 20, 2006
  23. ^ Robitaille, Antoine (September 19, 2006), "Les pures laines coupables?", La Presse, retrieved 20 September 2015
  24. ^ Vastel, Michel (18 September 2006), "Le racisme sournois du Globe & Mail", L'actualité blog
  25. ^ a b "Charest seeks Globe apology over notion culture a factor in school shootings", Canadian Press via The Gazette, September 19, 2006, archived from the original on March 11, 2007, retrieved September 20, 2006
  26. ^ Ottawa, The (March 20, 2007). "Don't faint, I'm siding with a separatist". Canada.com. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
  27. ^ "L'affaire Wong' becomes talk of Quebec". Canada.com. September 23, 2006. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved 2010-01-02.
  28. ^ Katia Gagnon : La commission Bouchard-Taylor... à l'envers | Actualités | Cyberpresse
  29. ^ "Leaked accommodation commission report sparks fury in Quebec". CBC News. Montreal. May 19, 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  30. ^ "Harper's 'old-stock Canadians' line is part deliberate strategy: pollster". CBC News. CBC. 18 September 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Taras Grescoe. Sacre Blues: An Unsentimental Journey Through Quebec. Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 2004. ISBN 1-55199-081-4