Pure laine

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The French term pure laine literally meaning pure wool (and often translated as true blue or dyed-in-the-wool) refers to those whose ancestry is exclusively French-Canadian. Another similar term is de souche. (of the base of the tree, or root,[1] old stock as in 'Old Stock Canadians').[2]

While most French-Canadians are able to trace their ancestry back to the original settlers of New France, a number are descended from mixed marriages between the French, Scottish and Irish settlers.[3] When these shared the same Roman Catholic faith, their unions were approved by the once-powerful Roman Catholic Church in Quebec. Another factor was the settlement of many English people in the region, many of whom were ultimately assimilated into the francophone culture. Recently, Quebec has also experienced the effects of a policy of immigration from French-speaking countries, which has changed Quebec's culture.


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.[4][5] Prior to 1663 the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal recruited women to come to Montreal, then known as Ville-Marie.[6]:8 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.[7][8] 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.[4]

From the seventeenth century into the twentieth century, French Canadians lived in relative geographic and linguistic isolation.[9] Their "settlements, internal migrations, and natural population increase" were well-documented[9] with "3 million records covering the whole province of Quebec over four centuries."[10] By 2015 "extended pedigrees of up to 17 generations" were constructed from "a sample of present-day individuals."[10] 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 that contributed to effective family size and population structure."[9] Founder populations, like the descendants of the early French immigrants, have an important role in the study of genetic diseases.[11][10] With an unusually high prevalence of genetic disorders in the subpopulations of Quebec, they became the subject of human genetics research.[9] 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."[12] 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.[13] 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.[12] In 1998 Xavier Gélinas, then-Curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization CMC), 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.[12] 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."[12] Expressions such as 'Canadiens francais pure laine', 'Québecois pure laine' or 'revolution tranquille' became powerful evocative symbols charged with ideology and identity.[14]: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,[15][16] argued that Groulx and the newspaper Le Devoir were antisemitic and supported fascism.[12]


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 & Mail, on September 16, 2006, three days after the shooting at Dawson College in Montreal.[17] 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."[18][19][19][20][21]

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."[21]

However the term was still frequently used in both English and French media.[22][23][24] 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."[25] 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,[1]

"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 Québecois 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 Québecois or a Quebecer."

— David Austin

Similar terms in English[edit]


According to Gilman and Milton, the appellation "Unamerican" favoured by US Senator Eugene McCarthy is a version of the terms pure wool, true blue, dyed-in-the-wool, and old stock.[26]:383

Old-stock Canadians[edit]

In the 2015 federal election campaign in Canada, which was taking place against the backdrop of hundreds of thousands of refugees of the Syrian Civil War (2011-) fleeing to Europe, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's use of the appellation 'Old stock Canadians' created a media frenzy.[27][28]

Social researcher Frank Graves, founder and current president of EKOS Research Associates Inc. described the use of the term 'old-stock Canadians' as a deliberate strategy called dog-whistle politics — a term that originated in Australian politics in the mid-1990s, and used by John Howard in his successful political campaign[29]:90 under the direction of Lynton Crosby Crosby was retained by Harper in September 2015. Graves claimed that this was a "deliberate strategy "to energize the Conservative base' and to sort them from the rest of the electorate. It creates a sense of us versus others." The 'dog-whistle' message analogy refers to the way in which a political message — which may be in effect be exclusionary, distasteful and even racist, reactionary or inflammatory to some — is not understood as such by those outside the target subgroup of the electorate. The message resonates and energizes this target group and is misheard or misunderstood by others just as the high pitched sound of the dog whistle is only heard by dogs.[30][31][32]

Tu Thanh Ha linked the phrase not only to "Québécois de souche" but also to Prime Minister Harper's recent hiring of "Lynton Crosby, who is known to win elections against great odds in Australia where he masterminded the successful General Election victories for the former Australian prime minister John Howard, in 1998 and 2001 and Britain by using "emotionally-charged campaigning tactics." In Canada divisive polarizing issues include "the ban the niqāb from citizenship ceremonies and "raising fears about terrorism." Tu Thanh Ha claims that Harper was trying to pitch to minority voters – "by drawing a line between the law-abiding ones, whose social values also happened to be conservative, and the others, those who were portrayed as queue-jumping terrorist-sympathizing bogus asylum seekers."[33]

In an interview with the Toronto Star poet and playwright George Elliott Clarke,OC ONS, a Canadian poet and playwright and a 7th-generation descendant of black refugees of the War of 1812 said,[34]

"The true ‘old-stock’ Canadians are the First Nations and Inuit and Metis, followed by the many divergent ethnicities who were also present in colonial Canada, from African slaves in muddy York to 'German' settlers on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, from the Chinese merchants present in Nouvelle-France to the Portuguese and Basque fishermen of Newfoundland...Personally, I think the current Prime Minister is unsure about his own identity and possibly nervous about the true, multicultural, multilingual, multiple-faiths and multiracial Canada that now beautifully, proudly, lives and flourishes."

— George Elliott Clarke


The Twitter debate on the meaning of 'old-stock Canadians' almost immediately had its own hashtag #OldStockCanadians often used with #globedebate.[27] Tu Thanh Ha's article entitled "Intentional or not, Harper’s words draw a line between us and others" was retweeted and also received over 720 comments on the Globe and Mail's site.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal. Toronto: Between the Lines. 2013. p. 255. ISBN 9781771130103. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ "Québec History". Québec City Tourism. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Landry, Yves (1992). Orphelines en France, pionnieres au Canada, les filles du Roi au XVIIe siecle (Thesis). Montreal. 
  5. ^ Haines, Michael R.; Steckel, Richard H. (15 August 2000). A Population History of North America. Cambridge University Press. p. 736. ISBN 0521496667. 
  6. ^ Beaudoin, Marie-Louise; Sévigny, Jeannine (1996). "Les premières et les filles du roi à Ville-Marie". Montreal: Maison Saint-Gabriel. 
  7. ^ Lanctot, Gustave (1952). "Filles de joie ou filles du roi". Montreal: Les Éditions Chantecler Ltée. 
  8. ^ Landry, Yves (1992). "Orphelines en France pionnières au Canada: Les filles du roi au XVIIe siècle". Montreal: Leméac Éditeur Inc. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ 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). doi:10.1186/s12859-015-0581-5. PMID 25971991. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Groulx, Lionel (1922). L'Appel de la race. Montréal: L'Action française. p. 278. ISBN 9782762138887. 
  14. ^ Mathieu, Jacques; Lacoursière, Jacques (1991). Les mémoires québécoises. ISBN 2-7637-7229-3. 
  15. ^ 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). ISBN 1-895854-01-6. 
  16. ^ Delisle, Esther (1998). Myths, Memories & Lies: Quebec's Intelligentsia and the Fascist Temptation, 1939-1960 (Essais sur l'imprégnation fasciste au Québec). ISBN 1-55207-008-5. 
  17. ^ Wong, Jan (September 16, 2006). "Get under the desk". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved September 20, 2006. 
  18. ^ "Charest seeks Globe apology over notion culture a factor in school shootings", Canadian Press via The Gazette, September 19, 2006, retrieved September 20, 2006 
  19. ^ a b Robitaille, Antoine (September 19, 2006), "Les pures laines coupables?", La Presse, retrieved 20 September 2015 
  20. ^ Vastel, Michel (18 September 2006), "Le racisme sournois du Globe & Mail", L'actualité blog 
  21. ^ 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 
  22. ^ Ottawa, The (March 20, 2007). "''Don't faint, I'm siding with a separatist''". Canada.com. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  23. ^ Post, National (September 23, 2006). "''L'affaire Wong' becomes talk of Quebec''". Canada.com. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  24. ^ Katia Gagnon : La commission Bouchard-Taylor... à l'envers | Actualités | Cyberpresse
  25. ^ "Leaked accommodation commission report sparks fury in Quebec". CBC News. Montreal. May 19, 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  26. ^ Gilman, Sander L; Milton, Shane, eds. (1 September 1999). Jewries at the Frontier: Accommodation, Identity, Conflict. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252067924. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  27. ^ a b "'Old stock Canadians,' egg timer, creepy set top debate's odd moments Moderator David Walmsley's Irish accent and a ringing bell get reaction on social media". CBC News. 17 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  28. ^ Muise, Monique (September 18, 2015). "'Old-stock Canadians' are those already here, says Harper spokesman". Global News. Retrieved September 21, 2015. 
  29. ^ Grant Barrett, The official dictionary of unofficial English, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2006, p. 90
  30. ^ Safire, William (2008). Safire's political dictionary. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 190. ISBN 0-19-534334-4. 
  31. ^ Lohrey, Amanda (2006). Voting for Jesus: Christianity and Politics in Australia. Melbourne, Vic.: Black Inc. pp. 48–58. ISBN 1-86395-230-6. 
  32. ^ "Harper's 'old-stock Canadians' line is part deliberate strategy: pollster Harper reiterates position on health care for genuine refugees". CBC News. 18 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  33. ^ a b Tu Thanh Ha (18 September 2015). "Intentional or not, Harper's words draw a line between us and others". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  34. ^ Chown, Marco; Otis, Daniel (18 September 2015). "Who are 'old stock Canadians'? The Star asked some people with deep roots in Canada what they thought of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's controversial phrase". Toronto. Toronto Star. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

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