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What is Québec?

Québec is the largest province by land area in Canada.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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Québec is one of Canada’s ten provinces, along with Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan. The rest of Canada’s land consists of three territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon Territory.

Québec is bordered on the west by Ontario, Hudson Bay, and James Bay. To its north lies the Hudson Strait, while its eastern border is formed by Labrador. Its east side is bordered by the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and to the south it borders New Brunswick, and the states of Maine, Vermont, and New York.

Québec is Canada’s largest province with an area of 643,803 square miles (1,667,441 sq km), and the second largest division if the territories are included. It makes up about 15.5% of the land in Canada. The 2007 population of Québec was 7,700,800, the second greatest of any region. Québec City is the capital of the province, and other important cities include Montréal, Laval, Verdun, Sherbrooke, and Hull.

Québec’s nickname is La Belle Province, which means “the beautiful province,” and its motto is Je me souviens, which means “I remember” Both are marks of its French heritage. The name Québec itself reveals the Native heritage: it comes from an Algonquian word that means “where the river narrows.” The provincial emblems are as follows:

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  • Floral emblem: Blue Flag (iris)
  • Arboreal emblem: Yellow Birch
  • Avian emblem: Snowy Owl
  • Insect emblem: White Admiral Butterfly
  • Mineral emblem: Asbestos
  • Shield of Arms: A crown surmounts the shield shape with 3 fleur-de-lis on blue, a golden lion on red, and three maple leaves on gold. Underneath is the motto.
  • Flag: White cross on a blue background with four fleur-de-lis, representing the French settlers.

Aboriginal people inhabited the area that became Québec for over 2,000 years. The current Native population of Québec is divided between Amerindians and Inuits. Europeans began settling the area after Samuel de Champlain founded the City of Québec in 1608. Today, 6/7 of the population are French speakers descended from French colonists, while there are about 600,000 English-speaking Quebecers, primarily descended from British immigrants, mostly in the Montréal area, where roughly half the population of the province resides.

From its beginning as a colony, Québec’s economy revolved around the “mother country,” with the fur trade a military being the most important elements. Following that period came exploitation of the country’s natural resources and industrialization. Today, the economy of Québec is ranked at 40th in the world, with about 70% drawn from the service sector, as well as important roles for the pharmaceutical and aeronautics industry.

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