100 Surprising Facts About Québec

Fun facts about Quebec Canada

Find out these 100 surprising, educational, and fun facts about Québec province! The first section contains general Québec facts. The second section is devoted to more random facts, while the final one covers historical Québec facts.   

Bonjour, and welcome to Québec, a nation within Canada with its own distinct culture, language, and history. Besides giving poutine and Céline Dion to the world, what else is this Canadian province known for?

General Québec Facts

  • Québec is one of the 13 provinces and territories of Canada.
  • It is located in Eastern Canada. Sometimes, though, Québec and neighboring Ontario are referred to as “Central Canada” due to their immense significance to the country in terms of size, population, and history.
  • At 1,542,056 km2 (595,391 mi2), Québec is the largest province in Canada, or second largest if the territories are included, after Nunavut.
  • If it were a country, Québec would be the 19th largest in the world, between Peru and Mongolia.
  • Québec is nearly three times the size of France but only has 13% as many people.  
  • Several islands belonging to Nunavut are located just off the coast of Québec, and a few very small sections of Québec’s northern coast also belong to Nunavut.
Some houses and animal furs hanging in an Inuit village in northern Quebec
The Inuit village of Kangiqsualujjuaq in far Northern Quebec
  • Québec is Canada’s second-most populous province, after Ontario, with 8.63 million people. It is home to 23% of all Canadians.
  • Quebec City is the capital of Québec and the 8th largest city in Canada, with a population of 705,000.
  • Québec is also home to Montréal, the second-largest city in Canada, between Toronto, Ontario, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Montréal has 1.6 million people (or 4.3 million in the metropolitan area).
  • Quebec City and Montreal are on the St. Lawrence River, the largest river in Canada by volume. The river flows into the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Québec.
Aerial view of the old port of Quebec City on the Saint Lawrence River
Quebec City on the Saint Lawrence River
  • The city of Gatineau in Québec is across the Ottawa River from Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada. The two cities are sometimes considered one urban centre, Ottawa–Gatineau.
  • Québec is the only Canadian province where French is the predominant and sole official language. 85% of people in Québec are francophones (predominantly French speakers), and 95% of residents speak at least conversational French.
  • Québec has a distinct culture within Canada, influenced by its New France/Lower Canada origins, First Nations, British, Americans, and Acadians.
  • Québec First Nations include speakers of Algonquian and Iroquois languages and Inuits on the northern coast. Only 2.3% of Québec’s population is indigenous, the second-lowest percentage in Canada after Prince Edward Island.
A sign pointing the way to some French place names in Quebec
French signage in Quebec
  • In English, the province name is usually spelled without the accent (Quebec), and people from there are called Quebecers/Quebeckers. In French (and sometimes in English), they are also called Québécois, and their dialect is called Québécois French.
  • Canadian English speakers usually incorrectly pronounce Quebec as “kwuh-beck” or “ke-beck,” while local Québécois pronounce it “kay-beck.”
  • The name Québec comes from an Algonquin word meaning “narrow passage”, referring to a narrow section of the St. Lawrence River around Quebec City. The colonist Samuel de Champlain chose the name in 1606.  
  • The flag of Québec is a white cross on a blue background, with four fleurs-de-lis (a decorative lily that is often associated with France).
The Quebec flag
The flag of Quebec
  • Québec’s slogan is “Je me souviens” (I remember). Its meaning is debated, but the most common explanation is that it refers to the loss of New France to Britain in 1763. It replaced the slogan “La Belle Province” in 1978 and appears on the Québec coat of arms and license plates in the province.
  • The snowy owl is the official bird and a symbol of Québec.

Random Interesting Facts About Québec

  • There has long been a separatist movement in Québec, but two referendums (1980 and 1995) just barely failed to reach a 50% support for separation.
A pot of maple syrup being heated over coals in Quebec
Quebec is the world’s top producer of maple syrup.
  • Québécois visit cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks), where maple syrup is made, to eat and participate in festivities in spring.
  • Québec is well-known for its comedy. It hosts numerous comedy festivals, including Just For Laughs, the world’s largest international comedy festival, hosted annually in Montréal.
  • Québec has the largest body of folklore in Canada after the First Nations, with many tales going back to the early days of exploration and settlement.
A wooden barn and trees with buckets on them to collect maple syrup in Quebec
A traditional cabane a sucre in Quebec
  • All signs in Québec must be in French. Other languages can be included, but must be smaller.
  • Québec is the only province in Canada with a mixed legal system, with civil matters falling under a French civil law system, and public law operating under the Canadian legal system.
  • Québécois are Canada’s biggest supporters of same-sex marriage rights (80% according to the polls, versus the lowest, 69% in Alberta).
  • Quebec has 32 overseas offices in cities including London, Paris, Rome, New York City, Mumbai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo. It also has a representative to UNESCO.
  • 95% of Québec is covered in the Canadian Shield, a rocky landscape mostly covered in boreal forest. There is also an Arctic tundra in the far north, while the vast majority of people live in the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River lowlands, the smallest of Canada’s ecozones, in the far south.
Some pools of water in a rocky landscape on the Canadian Shield in Quebec
Rocky Canadian Shield landscape in Northern Quebec
  • Nord-du-Québec is the largest of the 17 regions of Québec. It takes up 55% of the province but only has 0.5% of its population. It includes the Nunavik (Québec Arctic) region, the northern third of the province, with a population density of only 0.017 people per km2.
  • How many lakes are there in Québec? Estimates range from 100,000 to 1 million, depending on what you consider a lake. 12% of the province is covered in water, including 4500 rivers, and accounting for 3% of all freshwater in the world.
  • 92% of Québec’s territory is Crown (public) land, including all bodies of water.
  • The 433-meter-long Percé Rock lies off the coast of the Gaspé Peninsula. Its unique appearance, with a large natural arch, makes it one of the most recognizable natural landmarks in Canada.
A rocky cliff in the ocean with an arch hole in called Percé Rock, Quebec
Percé Rock is a symbol of Canada
  • Québec also has one national park reserve, Mingan Archipelago, which is on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is home to Atlantic puffins.
  • Québec has 29 provincial parks, which it calls “national parks of Quebec” because it considers itself a nation within Canada.
  • Québec has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Old Québec and Miguasha. Anticosti Islands is also on the tentative list.
  • Québec City is the only remaining walled city in North America north of Mexico City. It is also considered Canada’s most “European-looking” city.
Street and castle in Old Quebec in Quebec City
The historic district of Old Quebec
  • Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal is the largest church in Canada and has one of the largest church domes in the world.
  • The Olympic Stadium in Montreal, built for Expo 67, is the largest covered stadium in Canada. The Montreal Tower next to it is the tallest inclined tower in the world, at 175 m (574 ft) with an angle of 45 degrees.
  • Québec has a 5034 km (3128 mi) network of biking trails called the Route Verte.
  • The city of Saguenay in Québec is considered the snowiest in Canada, with 93 days of snowfall per year.
A tall, inclined tower called Montreal Tower leaning over the Olympic Stadium
The Olympic Stadium and Montreal Tower
  • The Gulf of St. Lawrence is home to blue whales, minke whales, and belugas, while the far north of Québec has polar bears, muskox, and Arctic foxes.
  • Québec has the second highest GDP in Canada, after Ontario, accounting for 20% of the national GDP. Its economy is similar in size to that of Norway or Greece.
  • Staple industries in Québec are aerospace, IT, telecommunications, mining, and tourism.
  • Three-quarters of Québec’s international exports go to the United States.
  • 99% of Québec’s electricity comes from renewable resources, and it produces most of Canada’s hydroelectricity.
A hydroelectric dam on a river in Quebec
A hydroelectric dam in Quebec
  • Over 1 million Québécois work in science and technology, and the province is a world leader in scientific and space research. It has produced 10 Nobel prize winners in physics, chemistry, and medicine.
  • Québec has a different education system than the other provinces, with students undergoing 2 years of college after high school and before applying to university.
  • Foods that originated in Québec include poutine (Canada’s most iconic dish), tourtière (meat pie), and pâté chinois (similar to Shepherd’s pie).
  • Other things invented in Québec or by Québécois include the Wonderbra, peanut butter, ice wine, snowmobiles and snowblowers, IMAX theatres, and the board game Trivial Pursuit.
A bowl of poutine on a restaurant table.
Canada’s most famous dish, poutine, originated in Quebec
  • Famous people born in Québec include Metis leader Louis Riel (strongly connected with the history of Manitoba and Saskatchewan), NDP leader Jack Layton, actor William Shatner, comedian Norm Macdonald, and hockey players Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur, and Mario Lemieux.
  • Six of Canada’s 23 prime ministers so far have been born in Québec (or Lower Canada/Canada East), including Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chrétien, and Brian Mulroney.
  • Famous bands and musicians from Québec include Céline Dion, Leonard Cohen, Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones, Arcade Fire, Corey Hart, Men Without Hats, Bran Van 3000, Kid Koala, The Stills, The Dears, Simple Plan, The Planet Smashers, and the Ripcordz.
  • Montreal’s Igloofest bills itself as the “coldest music festival in the world,” taking place outdoors in January to February.
  • Québec has played a major role in popularizing hockey in Canada. The first indoor hockey game ever was played in Montreal in 1875, and the NHL (National Hockey League) started there in 1917.
A mosaic of celebrities who were born in Quebec
Famous Quebeckers Louis Riel, Pierre Trudeau, William Shatner, Norm Macdonald, Mario Lemieux, and Celine Dion (clockwise from top left)
  • The Montreal Canadiens are the longest running professional hockey team in the world and the winner of the most Stanley Cups, 24. They are nicknamed Les Habitants, or simply the “Habs”.
  • Manon Rhéaume of Québec was the first woman to ever play on an NHL hockey team, Tampa Bay Lightning in Florida.
  • Major companies and restaurants based in Québec are Air Canada, Canadian National Railway, Bell Canada, L’Oréal Canada, Aldo, Bank of Montreal, Ben & Florentine, Eggspectation, Cora, and Thai Express.  

Facts About Québec History

  • Some of the oldest rocks, dating to 4 billion years ago, and possibly signs of early life, have been found in the far north of Quebec.
  • The oldest indigenous remains in Québec date back to around 12,000 years.
  • In the 700s CE, indigenous people started farming in the St. Lawrence River valley. The Iroquois people there cultivated corn, marrow, sunflowers, and beans.
The Saint Lawrence River with some vegetation growing around it
Agriculture began in the lowlands around the Saint Lawrence River
  • In 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier planted a cross in the Gaspé Peninsula named Québec, a part of New France, which would last until 1763. A year later, he sailed up the St. Lawrence River to an Iroquois settlement of 500 people called Stadacona in present-day Quebec City.
  • Cartier named the village Canada, after a local Iroquois name for it.
  • Samuel de Champlain established Québec City as a permanent fur trading post at Stadacona in 1608, and it would become the capital of New France.
  • In 1663, the Company of New France ceded Québec to the French king, making it an official colony. Settlers there became known as “Canadiens” or “Habitants”.
  • From the late 1600s to the mid-1700s, the French, allied with the Algonquians, clashed with the English, allied with the Iroquois, resulting in several battles.
A portion of the Old City Wall in Quebec City
Old City Wall in Quebec City
  • At the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, France lost the territory of Québec/Canada to the British by signing the Treaty of Paris.
  • A long section of land on either side of the St. Lawrence River, including the Gaspé Peninsula, thus became the Province of Québec. It was the first time the word Québec was used to refer to land beyond Quebec City.
  • On paper, the French were allowed to preserve their culture and traditions. This was done to avoid rebellions such as those happening in the British colonies to the south, which would turn into the American Revolution and would spill over into Québec. But in practice, the English tried assimilating the French and reducing their power.
  • With the Constitutional Act of 1791, Québec became Lower Canada, and Ontario Upper Canada, separated mainly by their language and legal systems. Québec City was the capital of Lower Canada.
  • In 1809, England decided to administer the coastal region of Labrador as part of the newly created Newfoundland colony.
A metal canon in Quebec City
Old canon on display in Quebec City
  • In 1837, a rebellion broke out in Lower Canada. Despite being a British colony, the French remained a majority in Canada and were unhappy with British rule.
  • Following Lord Durham’s recommendations, Lower and Upper Canada were united into one colony, the Province of Canada, from 1841 to 1867. Québec was thus called Canada East, and Ontario was Canada West. The capital city moved from Kingston to Montreal, Toronto, Québec City, and finally, Ottawa.
  • The French language was banned from being used in Parliament and courts.
  • On July 1, 1867, 3 colonies, the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, were united into a federation called the Dominion of Canada, becoming a self-governing nation within the British Empire. This date, called Confederation Day, is celebrated as Canada’s national day.
  • Québec was thus one of the four original provinces of Canada, with the remaining six provinces and three territories joining or being created over the next 132 years.
Buildings of downtown Montreal
Montreal became Canada’s largest city until Toronto surpassed it in 2001.
  • After the Confederation, workers and immigrants flocked to Montreal, which became the largest city in Canada. By WWI, it had half a million people.
  • When the Quebec-born Métis leader Louis Riel was executed in Saskatchewan in 1885, it sparked nationalist sentiment in Québec. Honoré Mercier became the first of many Québec premiers that would lobby for provincial autonomy in Québec.
  • In 1898, Wilfred Laurier was the first French Canadian to become Prime Minister.
  • In WWI, most French in Canada didn’t want to become involved in England’s war and refused conscription, leading to a riot in 1918 and a similar situation in WWII.
  • Québec’s boundaries were extended north in 1898 and 1912 and finally to their present borders in 1927.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec City
Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec City
  • In early Canada until the 1950s, Québec had one of the world’s most traditional Roman Catholic cultures, and the church was heavily involved in health care and education.
  • In the 1960s, the Quiet Revolution saw great social changes in Québec, from secularism and a growing welfare state to an increased Québécois identity.
  • The 1960s also saw the growth of a violent separatist movement in Quebec. In the 1970 October Crisis, PM Pierre Trudeau enacted the War Measures Act after the Front de Libération du Québec kidnapped and murdered a politician.
  • 1968 saw the creation of the Parti Québécois provincial party, whose main platform is sovereignty and independence for Québec. Québec elected its first Parti Québécois leader in 1976.
  • In 1967, Montreal hosted Expo 67 of the World’s Fair on the 100th anniversary of Confederation. It is considered the most successful Expo event of the 20th century.
Biosphere pavilion dome from Expo 67 in Montreal
The US pavilion from Expo 67 now houses the Biosphere Museum.
  • In 1976, Montreal also hosted the Summer Olympic Games.
  • In the 1980 Referendum, 60% of Québécois voted to stay in Canada, while in a second Referendum in 1996, 50.58% voted to stay.
  • When Canada became a fully independent country in the Canada Act of 1982, Québec was the only province that refused to sign and still hasn’t.
  • In 1991, the Bloc Québécois Canadian political party was created. Today it is the third largest party in Canada after the Liberals and Conservatives, and its main platform is also sovereignty for Québec. It has never produced a Canadian prime minister.
  • In 2003, Canada’s national assembly declared that “the people of Québec form a nation”, and the House of Commons passed a similar symbolic motion in 2006.
A pride flag with a heart on it with people in the background at a pride parade in Montreal
A Pride parade in Montreal
  • In 2017, there were major floods in Québec, with a state of emergency called in Montreal.
  • In 2019, Québec enacted controversial Bill 21, barring government workers from wearing hijabs, turbans, and other religious items.
  • In the early stages of the pandemic, Quebec had the most COVID cases in Canada. The province had lockdowns starting on Christmas Day 2020, and again on NYE 2021.
  • In 2022, Quebec passed another controversial bill: Bill 96 making French exclusive language of government.

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