These debates, which were held from 1966 to 1969, marked a continuation of similar francophone gatherings that had taken place in Québec City in 1912, 1937 and 1952. Called Congrès de la langue française (French Language Congresses) these meetings, like the Estates General of French Canada, provided for reflection on the francophone experience in North America.
1967 National Conferences
From November 23 to 27, 1967, 1075 territorial delegates from Québec, 167 representatives from the associative networks, and 364 francophones outside Québec participated in the work of the national conferences of the Estates General of French Canada. In this way, they responded to the call of the event's organizers, many who subsequently remained active in Québécois society: law professor and former Québécois government minister Jacques-Yvan Morin; Rosaire Morin senior editor of the magazine L’Action Nationale; and economics professor François-Albert Angers.
Several of these participants had already taken part in the preliminary conferences of November 1966, but this time they were in Montréal to discuss the political fate of the French Canadian nation. Let us recall the particular context of the November 1967 conferences. It was the year of the centenary of Canadian Confederation and of the World's Fair Man and His World. It was a time of socio-political upheaval provoked by the Quiet Revolution, the development of the independence movement, and French President Charles de Gaulle's noted visit to Québec.
A Breaking Point?
The Estates General national conferences of November 1967 marked a rift in relationships among French-speaking people in America ‒ especially those in Canada. The Estates General became a benchmark in understanding the transformation of parameters that from now on would define the Québécois nation: realizing an identity built on promoting the French language; having a precise geographic territory ‒ Québec; and the determining role of the Québec government in advancing the French fact in North America. These radical changes to what was then called French Canadian nationalism were quickly interpreted by representatives of French-speaking communities outside Québec as abandonment of French Canada and of francophones residing outside the Québécois national territory (see Francophone nationalism in Québec).
These changes, approved by the delegates to the national conferences, gave rise to debates during discussions on the resolution of French Canadians' right to self-determination. Recognizing Québec, among other things, as the national territory of French Canada, the resolution led some representatives outside Québec to show their scorn during interventions and voting. Franco-Ontarians rejected the resolution while French-speaking people in the West were equally divided in their votes among acceptance, rejection, and abstention. However, the majority of Acadians (52 per cent) and Québec delegates (98 per cent) supported the resolution.
The Estates General made it possible to observe the tensions that exist among French Canadians. The debates became symbolic in the transformation of French Canada, the emergence of Québécois territorial nationalism, and of the difficulties that characterized the dialogues between representatives of francophone minority groups in Canada and Québec, especially on the question of Québec's future in Canada.