Courtesy Reuters

Labor and the Church in Quebec

ONLY 18 months ago the French-Canadian Province of Quebec reëlected the provincial Premier, Maurice Duplessis, by a huge majority -- he won 82 of 92 seats in the Legislature. It was a triumph of the extreme Right. Mr. Duplessis is said to have promised, and later did introduce, a labor law that made the Taft-Hartley Act look radical. He is an isolationist not only in world affairs but within Canada--a violent champion of "provincial rights" who often seems to regard Ottawa as a foreign if not a hostile capital. Altogether, his is probably the only government north of Georgia which not only is reactionary but proud of it.

He was also regarded, in 1948, as the darling of the Quebec Catholic clergy. Although Mr. Duplessis has never been noted for personal piety, he has cultivated the support of the Church with great assiduity and considerable success. The support was by no means unanimous; he has always had powerful opponents in the Quebec hierarchy, notably the liberal Archbishop of Montreal, Monseigneur Joseph Charbonneau. But there is no doubt that among the rank and file of parish priests he was a popular figure, and that this was a major factor in his sensational victory last year.

On the record, this affinity between Mr. Duplessis and the so-called "lower clergy" was not remarkable. Quebec had long been famous as the last remaining pool of cheap and docile labor in North America, and a friendly curé was often helpful in preserving the docility. Workers in the smaller industrial towns were organized, if at all, into well-behaved unions called the Catholic Syndicates. Most of them had originated more as a dike against the alien, godless C.I.O. and A.F.L. unions than as a genuine labor weapon; until a few years ago the typical syndicate was heavily dominated by its chaplain, the parish priest, and the typical chaplain was pretty friendly with the management of the local mill. There used to be a cynical saying among Quebec

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