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Readings in Quebec History


Last revised:
23 August 2000

Evolution of the Territory of Quebec: 1763-1927

Claude Bélanger,
Department of History,
Marianopolis College

1763 Following the Treaty of Paris (1763), the Royal Proclamation was issued. In it, the province was renamed Province of Québec and its territory was defined as a thin band extending from approximately the Ottawa River along both shores of the St. Lawrence to about Anticosti Island. On the North Shore the limit passed just north of Lac St. Jean. See the accompanying map.
1774 In an effort to solidify the loyalty of the Canadiens, and hoping that concessions would  bring them to help England against the impending American Revolution, Britain issued  the Quebec Act. The Act extended the frontiers of Quebec from the Labrador Coast along a line significantly north of Lac St. Jean and extending westward to a point beyond Lake Superior; southward, the border ran along the Mississippi/Missouri and Ohio rivers, thus adding all of the Ohio Valley to Quebec. Thus, the entire St. Lawrence/Great Lakes system, and all of the land surrounding it, were now included in Quebec. As much as  possible, England had wished to reconstitute the territory of New France under a single  political unit and, by extending the borders westward, invigorate the economy of Quebec by giving its inhabitants access to the avenues of penetration of the continent and, thus, to the fur trade. Both Americans and several Native groups were unhappy with this decision. See the accompanying map.
1783 At the Treaty of Paris of 1783 (This treaty settled the issue of the American Revolution; in it England recognized the independence of the United States. Given that North America was now to be divided in some fashion between England and the USA, the borders had to be fixed between the two) the Province of Quebec lost all of the lands below the Great Lakes (the Ohio Valley). Quebec retained only the land North of the Great Lakes. The territory of Quebec was thus approximately that of Southern Quebec and Southern Ontario as we know them today.
1791In the Constitutional Act (also called Canada Act), the territory of the Province of Quebec
was divided into two. The frontier between Upper Canada (southern Ontario of today) and Lower Canada (southern Quebec of today)was established along the Ottawa River. Thus, of the large territory granted to Quebec in the Quebec Act of 1774, only the southern portion of today’s Quebec remained by 1791. See the accompanying map.
1809Anticosti Island and the area of Labrador are transferred from Lower Canada (Quebec) to the administration of Newfoundland.
1825Anticosti Island and Labrador (except for the coast of Labrador that was to remain in the hands of Newfoundland) are transferred to Lower Canada (Quebec).
1840-1As suggested by Lord Durham in his famous report, Upper and Lower Canada are merged into one province, with one government, under the name of United Province of  Canada. For the first time since the Conquest, there is not an identifiable government just for Quebec and its population. See the accompanying map.
1867The Constitutional Act of 1867 (British North America Act) creates a new Province of Quebec with a government of its own and under local control. The territory is basically that of southern Quebec of today. This creation of a Province of Quebec, controlled by ‘the Québécois’ went a long way to make them accept the new Constitution and the new country of Canada.
1898A portion of the land purchased by Canada from the Hudson Bay Company in 1868-1869 is given to Quebec by the federal government. As the accompanying map shows, the northern frontier of Quebec passes north of lake Mistassini in Quebec and reaches the mid-point approximately of James Bay.
1912A further grant of land in the North by the federal government extends the Northern limits of Quebec all the way to Ungava Bay (its present day frontier). See accompanying map.
1927A decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council very unfavourable to Quebec makes the Coast of Labrador, held by Newfoundland since 1809, mean a territory as deep into the interior of Quebec as 370 miles. This judicial decision has never been recognized by Governments of Quebec and has led to a good deal of friction between the two provinces.

© 1998 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College
Maps are from l’Annuaire du Québec, 1972