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When Jean Lesage and his équipe du tonnerre came to power in 1960, two thirds of young adults in Quebec didn’t have high school diplomas.1 Throughout the 1950s the Quebec economy had surfed on the global postwar expansion, but Quebec had not been able to narrow the 20 per cent gap between its standard of living and that of neighbouring Ontario.2 Although francophones made up 80 per cent of Quebec’s population, only 47 per cent of Quebecers were employed in francophone-owned businesses.3 When writer Pierre Vallières called French Canadians the “white niggers of America” in 1968, he was widely dismissed for making a ridiculous overstatement. In fact, he was telling the truth. In 1960, French-origin men earned less relative to British-origin men in Quebec (52 per cent) than black men did relative to white men in the United States (54 per cent).4

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