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Last revised:
20 August 2001

Documents sur la grève de l’amiante de 1949 / Documents on the 1949 asbestos strike

Note on Bibliographic Sources to Study the Asbestos Strike (1949)

Claude Bélanger,
Department of History,
Marianopolis College.

The material to study the Asbestos strike is extensive. Indeed, only the Winnipeg General Strike (1919) has received similar attention in Canadian history. Both of these strikes are deemed to have set into motion, or symbolized, an era of profound change. Thus, they have deserved considerable attention from historians. In the case of the Asbestos strike, three people acquired, through it, a prominence that they had not yet achieved before it. These were: Jean Marchand, Gérard Pelletier and Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Simply to raise, among many other reasons, the names of those who constituted the "three wise men" that joined the Pearson government in 1965 should be sufficient to underline the importance that this strike played in Quebec and Canadian histories. Another, Jean Drapeau, defended the strikers in Court and secured his position as a rising star with public opinion.

As will be gathered from the documentary sources on the Asbestos strike provided at the site, the main source for the study of this issue has been the book edited by Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1956 (Pierre Elliott TRUDEAU, ed., La grève de l'amiante. Une étape de la révolution industrielle au Québec, Montréal, Éditions Cité Libre, 1956, 430p.). Trudeau and his colleagues saw this strike as breaking with the errors of the past in Quebec (conservatism and nationalism) and announcing the onset of a revolution where the people of Quebec would embrace a modern, liberal, secular, industrial world. While the analysis of the strike and the interpretation of Trudeau has been challenged on many points by various commentators as the documents at the site clearly show [see as well ROUILLARD (1996 and 2000)], nevertheless, it created such a stir that several authors have considered that it was the book, and not the strike, that shook the old values of Quebec. The Trudeau book was translated into English and published in that language in 1974 (The Asbestos Strike, James Lewis & Samuel). Interestingly, it was reissued in French in 1970 as the original had long been out of print, and was not easy to find. A necessary companion to this controversial book is Jacques Cousineau's, Réflexions en marge de la Grève de l'amiante. Contribution à une recherche, Montréal, L'Institut social populaire, septembre 1958, 78p. In it, Father Cousineau gathered and summarised several of the reviews made of the book. Most of these are reproduced at the site in full texts. Some of these reviews are not listed in the bibliography presented below and reference should be made to them to complete the bibliography.

A good bibliographical survey of the material on the Asbestos strike is Jacques Gagnon, "La grève d'Asbestos: Comment transformer une défaite syndicale en succès médiatique", in Revue d'études des Cantons de l'Est/Journal of Eastern Townships Studies, No. 13, fall-winter 1998-1999, pp. 83-89. Gagnon has identified a significant proportion of the sources available on the Asbestos strike. In particular, he found the elusive article published in the Russian language listed below.

While the Asbestos strike is frequently mentioned in web biographies of Trudeau, only Johanne Pouliot has three pages on the Asbestos strike at her French Canadian Culture site at The role of Trudeau in the strike is discussed in a Globe and Mail article that is entitled "Still a Hero in Asbestos After All These Years" that is archived on the web.


Other Sources on the Asbestos Strike:

ANGERS, François-Albert, « Pierre Elliott Trudeau et la Grève de l'amiante », series of six articles published in l'Action nationale, September 1957, pp. 10-22; October 1957, 87-99; November 1957, 291-304; December 1957-January 1958, pp. 351-367; May-June 1958, pp. 470-585; September-October 1958, pp. 45-46.

ANONYMOUS, « La question sociale au Canada. L'Action du clergé et de la hiérarchie catholique dans la grève de l'amiante (13 février-1er juillet 1949) », La Documentation catholique, 7 mai 1950, colonnes 599-611. This translates an article that appeared in Civiltà Cattolica on December 3, 1949. The article was also published in Cousineau's book, Réflexions en marge quoted above.

ANONYMOUS, « La démission de S. Exc. Mgr. Joseph Charbonneau », in La Documentation catholique, 7 mai 1950, columns 611-618. This reproduces and translates various articles from different sources. These are reproduced at the site.

ANONYMOUS, La grève d'Asbestps de 1949, Centrale des Syndicats démocratiques, février 1999, 31p.

ARNAL, Oscar Cole, « From Reaction to Radicalism : The Changing Face of Quebec's Catholic Church Toward the Working Class (1920-1990), in Canadian Society of Church History, 1991, pp. 33-46.

BARRETTE, Antonio, Mémoires, Montréal, Beauchemin, 1966, 448p., pp. 117-155. Also published in English as Memoirs, Beauchemin, 1966, 384p., pp. 107-136. Barrette was the Minister of Labour in the Duplessis government at the time of the Asbestos strike. These two texts are reproduced in the collection of documents at the site.

BEHIELS, Michael, Prelude to Quebec's Quiet Revolution. Liberalism versus Neo-Nationalism, 1945-1960, Montreal, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1985, 366p., pp. 65-66, 85-86, 124-129, 133-134.

BLACK, Conrad, Duplessis, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1977, 743p., pp. 497-549. Black provides the standard, pro-Duplessis, interpretation of the strike. He has interesting information on the case of Mgr. Joseph Charbonneau. With Rumilly, he is the only one to have gained access to the Duplessis papers.

BLAIN, Jean, « La grève de l'amiante », dans l'Action nationale, October 1956, pp. 172-178. This article is reproduced in the documentary section at the site.

BOURGEAULT, Guy and Yves VAILLANCOURT, "Church and Worker in Quebec", in Benjamin G. SMILLIE, ed., Political Theology in the Canadian Context, Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1982.

BROWN. Lewis H., The Asbestos Strike, A Report on the Underlying Issues and the Position of the Canadian Johns-Manville Company, Ltd., Brochure dated May 11, 1949, 18p. This is a bilingual brochure. The title on the French side reads: La grève d'asbestos. Rapport sur le fond de la question et sur la position de Canadian Johns-Manville Company, Ltd. Both versions are reproduced in the documentary section of the site.

CHARPENTIER, Alfred, Les Mémoires d'Alfred Charpentier, Québec, Presses de l'Université Laval, 1971, 540p., pp. 328-359. See the bitter book review made by Gérard PICARD, « Alfred Charpentier, la grève de l'amiante et Le Devoir, in Le Devoir, July, 18, 1972, p. 5.

CHARPENTIER, Alfred, « La grève de l'amiante : nouvelle version », in Industrial Relations/Relations Industrielles, Vol. 19, No. 2 (1964) : 217-238.

IN COLLABORATION, 150 ans de lutte. Histoire du Mouvement ouvrier au Québec (1825-1976), Montréal CSN/CEQ, 1979, 235p., pp. 124-128.

CONFÉDÉRATION DES TRAVAILLEURS CATHOLIQUES DU Canada (CTCC), René Rocque, prisonnier politique?, Montréal, CTCC, no date, [april 1951 according to the Trudeau book] 48p.

COUSINEAU, Jacques, L'Église d'ici et le social, 1940-1960, Montréal, Éditions Bellarmin, 1982, 287p., pp. 83-91, 168-196.

COUSINEAU, Jacques, « La grève de l'amiante », dans Relations, No 102, Juin 1949, pp. 146-147.

COUSINEAU, Jacques « Une recherche récente sur les faits d'une grève », Relations, No 191, novembre 1956, pp. 315-317 ; « Le sens d'une grève : une interpretation controuvée », Relations, No 192, Décembre 1956, pp. 343-346 ; « Une méthode historique sans valeur », Relations, No 194, février 1957, pp. 37-40 ; « Vue surréaliste de notre histoire sociale », Relations, mars 1957, pp. 64-67. These articles discuss the Trudeau book. They were reproduced in the documentary section at the site.

COUSINEAU, Jacques, « La grève de l'amiante, les évêques et le départ de Mgr Charbonneau », in Le Devoir, May 7, 1974, p. 5.

COUTURE, Claude, Paddling with the Current : Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Étienne Parent, Liberalism and Nationalism in Canada, Edmonton, University of Alberta Press, 1998, 137p. Chapter one is on the Asbestos strike. This book is a translation of La loyauté d'un laïc).

CUSTOS (Émile Bouvier?), Recueil de documents. - Sur la grève de l'amiante (1949) organisée par la Confédération des Travailleurs Chrétiens du Canada. - À l'attention exclusive de MM. les membres du clergé, décembre 1949, 184p.

DAVID, Hélène, « La Grève et le bon Dieu : La grève de l'amiante au Québec », dans Sociologie et Sociétés, Vol. 1, No. 2 (novembre 1969) : 249-276.

DAVID, Hélène, « L'état des rapports de classe au Québec de 1945 à 1967 », in Sociologie et Sociétés, Vol. 7, No 2 (November 1975) : 33-66.

DE GRANDPRÉ, P., « Le social et le national. Sur des idées de Pierre Trudeau et Réginald Boisvert », dans l'Action nationale, octobre 1956, pp. 126-141. This article is reproduced at the site in the documentary section.

DELISLE, Esther et Pierre K. MALOUF, Le Quatuor d'Asbestos: autour de la grève de l'amiante, Montréal, Les Éditions Varia, 2004, 575p.

DENIS, Roch, Luttes de classe et question nationale au Québec, 1948-1968, Montréal, 1979.

DION, Gérard, « La grève de l'amiante : trente ans après », in Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Fourth series, Vol. 17, 1979, pp. 31-40. Father Dion published one of the articles printed in the Trudeau book on the Asbestos strike. Along with Louis O'Neill, he published the 1956 pamphlet on Public Immorality in Quebec during the Duplessis era.

FRASER, Blair, "Labor and the Church in Quebec", in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 28, January 1950, pp. 247-254. See the review of this article by Gordon ROTHNEY in Revue d'histoire de l'Amérique française, Vol. 3, No 4, 1950, pp. 614-617. This article is reproduced in the documentary section at the site.

GARRY, C., "The Asbestos Strike and Social Change in Quebec", in W. E. MANN, ed., Social and Cultural Change in Canada, Vol. 1, Vancouver, Copp Clark, 1970, pp. 252-261.

GEOFFROY, Jean-Paul, « Le procès Rocque : une abstraction », in Cité libre, May 1951. This text is found as appendix IV in the Trudeau book on the strike.

GROULX, Lionel, Mes Mémoires. Tome 4. 1940-1967, Montréal, Fides, 1974, 464p., pp. 247-279. The chapter centres on the resignation of Mgr Charbonneau. This text is reproduced in the documentary section of the site.

HAMELIN, Jean, Histoire du catholicisme québécois. Le XXe siècle : De 1940 à nos jours, Montréal, Boréal Express, 1984.

ISBESTER, Fraser, "Asbestos 1949", in Irving ABELLA, ed., On Strike. Six Key Labour Struggles in Canada, 1919-1949, Toronto, James Lewis & Samuel, 1974, 196p., pp. 163-196.

ISBESTER, F., Another Look at the Asbestos Worker's Strike of 1949, thesis, Bishop's University, 1963.

JAMIESON, Stuart Marshall, Times of Trouble: Labour Unrest and Industrial Conflict in Canada, 1900-66, Ottawa, Queen's Printer, 1968, pp. 324-333.

KESTEMAN, Jean-Pierre, SOUTHAM, Peter and Diane SAINT-PIERRE, Histoire des Cantons de l'Est, Institut québécois de recherche sur la culture, Presses de l'Université Laval, 1998, 829p., pp. 560-561.

KOLONEKO, V. A., "Asbestovaia Zabastovka 1949 G I Ee Rol V Istorii Kanadskogo Katolicheskogo Sindikalizma", in Amerikanskii Ezhegodnik, 1984, pp. 89-108.

LACHAPELLE, Judit, « Charbonneau, le Chef et la police », dans Le Devoir, 27 septembre 1999.

LACOURSIÈRE, Jacques and BIZIER, Hélène-Andrée, « En grève ! (1945-1953) », in Nos racines, No 134, pp. 2668-2677.

LAHAISE, Robert, ed., Le Devoir. Reflet du Québec au 20e siècle, Montréal, 1994. See the article by Jacques Rouillard's analysis of the position of the newspaper on trade unionism, pp. 279-312.

LAPOINTE, Renaude, L'Histoire bouleversante de Mgr Charbonneau, Montréal, Éditions du Jour, 1962, 156p. Chapters 1-3, 8, 11-12, 16 and the Épilogue are particularly relevant.

LAURENDEAU, André, « Sur cent pages de Pierre Elliott Trudeau » dans Le Devoir, October 6, 10 and 11, p. 1 [editorials]. These articles were reproduced in the documentary section at the site.

LeDOUX, Burton, « Un village de trios mille âmes étouffe dans la poussière. East Broughton et l'amiantose », dans Le Devoir, January 12, 1949, pp. 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8. This extensive report was published separately as a brochure of 40 pages.

LETOURNEAU, Jocelyn, « La grève de l'amiante entre ses mémoires et l'histoire », dans Journal of the Canadian Oral History Association, No 11, 1991, pp. 8-16.

LETOURNEAU, Jocelyn, « La mise en intrigue. Configuration historico-linguistique d'une grève célébrée : Asbestos, P.Q., 1949 », Recherches sémiotiques/Semiotic Inquiry, Vol. 12, Nos 1-2, 1992, pp. 53-71.

LETTRE PASTORALE COLLECTIVE de leurs Excellences Nosseigneurs les Archevêques et Évêques de la province civile de Québec sur les problèmes ouvriers en regard de la Doctrine Sociale de l'Église, dans Mandements des Évêques de Québec, Vol. 17, Document No 10, pp. 493-578. This joint pastoral letter by the Quebec bishops and archbishops was also published separately in the collection of brochures of the Institut social populaire, Nos 433-434, april-may 1950, 79p. The official summary of the pastoral letter is reproduced in the documentary section of the site.

LINTEAU, Paul-André, DUROCHER, René, ROBERT, Jean-Claude and François RICARD, Histoire du Québec contemporain. Vol. 2 : Le Québec depuis 1930, Montreal, Boréal-Express, 1986. Surprisingly, the book has very little on the strike itself. However, it has a good chapter on the Quebec post war trade Union movement (chapter 22, pp. 283-294). This book was translated into English and is available under the title: Quebec Since 1930 [1991].

LIPTON, Charles, The Trade Union Movement of Canada, 1827-1959, Montreal, Canadian Social Publications Limited, second edition, 1968, 366p., pp. 323-325. Also published in French under the title Histoire du syndicalisme au Canada et au Québec, 1827-1959, 1979, 500p.

MASSÉ, Georges, « Des images de la grève de l'amiante, 1949 », Bulletin du regroupement des chercheurs-res en histoire des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, Vol. 25, No 2 (automne 1999) : 54-61. This reviews two documentaries made on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the strike and aired on Radio-Canada and the History Television Network.

McDONOUGH, John Thomas, Charbonneau et le Chef, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1968, 128p. This is a play. It was translated into English in 1974 and first performed in that language in 1975.

MCKENZIE, G. M., The Asbestos Strike: The Press and Public Opinion, thesis, University of Toronto, 1950.

OLIVER, Michael, The Passionate Debate. The Social and Political Ideas of Quebec Nationalism. 1920-1945, Montreal, Véhicule Press, 1991, 284p., pp. 205-207.

OLIVER, Michael, "A New French Canadian Outlook", in Queen's Quarterly, summer 1957, pp. 269-276. This article is reproduced in the documentary section at the site.

PÉPIN, F., La grève de l'amiante à Asbestos, thèse, Université de Montréal, 1952.

49 - Un souffle de colère. Video-cassette produced by Sophie Bissonnette, Montreal, National Film Board, 1996.

QUINN, Herbert, The Union Nationale. A Study in Quebec Nationalism, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1963, 249p., pp. 92-94.

RICHARD, Jean, Le feu dans l'amiante, edited by the author, 1956. There was a reedition in 1971. This is a novel about the strike.

ROUILLARD, Jacques, « Mutations de la Confédération des travailleurs catholiques du Canada (1940-1960) », dans Revue d'histoire de l'Amérique française, Vol. 34, No 3 (décembre 1980) : 377-405.

ROUILLARD, Jacques, Histoire de la C.S.N., 1921-1981, Montréal, Boréal Express, 1981, pp. 165-202.

ROUILLARD, Jacques, « Vingt-cinq ans d'histoire du syndicalisme québécois. Quelques acquis de la recherche », in Yves ROBY and Nive VOISINE, eds., Érudition, humanisme et savoir. Actes du colloque en l'honneur de Jean Hamelin, Québec, Presses de l'Université Laval, 1996, pp. 171-196.

ROUILLARD, Jacques, « La grève de l'amiante, mythe et symbolique », dans l'Action nationale, Vol. 89, No 7, septembre 1999, pp. 33-43.

ROUILLARD, Jacques, « La grève de l'amiante de 1949 et le projet de réforme de l'entreprise. Comment le patronat a défendu son droit de gérance », dans Labour/Le travail, Vol. 46 (Fall 2000) : 307-342.

RUMILLY, Robert, Maurice Duplessis et son temps, Vol 2, 1944-1959, Montréal, Éditions Fides, 1973, 750p., pp. 231-313.

SAINT-PIERRE, J., La grève de l'amiante 1949 , Ottawa, National Film Board and National Museum of Man, 1974, 15p., and 30 slides. Coll. Histoire du Canada en images, Série 1, Vol. 18.

SHAY, M. E., A Preliminary Review of the Asbestos Strike: A Study in the Dynamics of Social Change, thesis, Fordham University, 1950.

TAAFE, Peter, "The Influence of the French Catholic Left on Quebec, 1945-1955", in The Register, Vol. 4, No. 1 (March 1983): 53-72.

TEEPLE, G., « The Asbestos Strike of 1949 », in R. M. Laxer, ed., Union Organization and Strikes, Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1978, 103p., pp. 80-94.

TRUDEAU, Pierre Elliott, « Le père Cousineau, s.j. et La grève de l'amiante » dans Cité libre, issue of May 1959, pp. 34-48. This article is reproduced at the site in the documentary section.

VALLIÈRES, Pierre, « Les grèves perdues », in Révolution québécoise, Vol. 5, No 1 (January 1965) : 8-18. Also reproduced in Fernand HARVEY, Aspects historiques du mouvement ouvrier au Québec, Montréal, Boréal Express, 1973, 223p., pp. 169-182.

© 2001 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College