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The “English Boss” and Company Towns:
Quebec’s English-speakers in the industrial economy, then and now

Arvida, 1933 (BAnQ, P600 S6 D5 P7)

QUESCREN is currently planning our 8th annual Association francophone pour le savoir (Acfas) congress. (Read about our last conference here.) Our conference will take place on May 9 & 10, 2018 at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) in Saguenay, Quebec. We need the names of several potential participants. Would you consider participating in this conference? Would you like to present a paper, organize a panel around a subject area, or join our organizing committee? If so, read on!


A prevailing vision of Quebec’s recent past involves a unilingual English-speaking “boss” class ruling above an underpaid Francophone working class.

Aspects of the model do apply historically, especially in some of Quebec’s “company towns.” Indeed, since the mid-1800s, English-speakers planned and established several communities throughout the province: Arvida, Shawinigan Falls, Asbestos, Temiscaming, and others. The elite in these locales typically lived in exclusive “quartiers des anglais” (English neighbourhoods) and rarely mixed with their largely Francophone neighbours.

However, a closer look at these and other company towns reveal that the Anglophone-dominance narrative is too simplistic. English-speakers from all classes were present in these communities from early on. Moreover, Francophones ran some important industries such as Chicoutimi’s large paper mill. Finally, when we look at former company towns today, we see that some old economic inequalities have been upended. The 1,680 English-speakers currently living in Saguenay, for instance, face higher unemployment rates than francophones, and have low indicators of community vitality.

The “English Boss” and Company Towns takes us to Saguenay, which grew in part according to this company town model. Two significant planned company towns were established within the current city limits: Kenogami, which the Price Brothers Company set up in 1910, and Arvida, which the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) built in 1926. The latter had the biggest aluminum smelter in the world and is presently being promoted as a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our conference seeks to examine myths and realities surrounding Quebec’s company towns, the present-day legacy of this heritage, how this heritage continues to shape ethno-linguistic relations in Quebec today, and current “on the ground” realities in former company towns. The conference will be followed by a field trip to Arvida & Kenogami to explore present-day realities, and a panel discussion with local English-speaking community leaders.


Your potential participation in the 2018 conference

If you want to participate, please let us know by writing Lorraine O'Donnell ( and Patrick Donovan ( ) with the following information:

  • Your name and job title
  • The nature of your possible participation: an individual presentation (paper) or a session (group of presentations, round-table or workshop)
  • Provisional title of paper or session

There is no need to provide any description beyond the provisional title at this point.

Regarding the formal call for papers (winter 2017-18)

A formal call for papers (presentations) for our conference will be issued by mid-December. At that point, a program committee will evaluate each proposal for inclusion in the conference program.


Note on the language of our conference

Presentations in French are preferable, given that Acfas is a French language venue. Authors presenting in spoken English will be requested to provide written titles and summaries in French before the conference date, and a written support (eg., PowerPoint presentation or handout) in French on the conference date. The conference organizers will be pleased to help provide English-to-French translation of this material.



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