Bloc populaire canadien | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Bloc populaire canadien

The Bloc populaire canadien is an anti-conscription and nationalist political party of the 1940s. The party participated in federal elections and in Quebec provincial elections. The Bloc received some minor electoral successes, but, by 1948, its influence had drastically diminished and the party faded away.

Henri Bourassa, publisher
Founder of Le Devoir and opponent of Canadian involvement in foreign military adventures, Bourassa inspired the growth of a vigorous nationalism in Québec.

Political Origins and Platform

The Bloc populaire canadien was formed in September 1942 by a group of French Canadian nationalists in reaction to an amendment to the National Resources Mobilization Act. This amendment removed the existing ban on conscription for military service overseas during the Second World War. This change in policy violated electoral promises made by William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberal party to Québec in 1939. King had freed himself of this promise by organizing a national plebiscite in early 1942 — essentially, a non-binding referendum vote. The resulting vote saw most of Canada, except Quebec, support King’s bid to enable conscription.

Inspired by Henri Bourassa and led by Maxime Raymond, the Bloc was a decidedly Canadian nationalist party. The party advocated for Canadian independence and neutrality, provincial autonomy, and equality between Anglo-Canadians and French Canadians. The Bloc was also in favour of more state involvement in social and economic issues. In its platform, the party strived for a co-operative economy and pushed for family-based social reforms such as provincial health insurance.

Early members of the Bloc came from a variety of political backgrounds. Raymond was a Liberal MP, but there were members from the Action libérale nationale and l’ Union nationale. Prominent members also included André Laurendeau, who chaired the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in the 1960s, as well as, later long time Montreal mayor, Jean Drapeau.

Poster of Jean Drapeau as candidate for the Bloc populaire canadien, 1944

Limited Political Successes

Led provincially by André Laurendeau, the Bloc populaire was a distinct third party in the Quebec legislature. In the 1944 election, the party only managed to elects four candidates to the National Assembly. The Bloc did however gain 14.4 per cent of votes which was considerable for a new party. Likely due to the lack of electoral success, Laurendeau resigned as party leader in 1947. The party did not participate in the subsequent 1948 provincial election.

Likewise to its provincial counterpart, the Bloc only gained some limited success at the federal level. The party never received more than a handful of seats in Parliament. When Parliament was dissolved on 30 April 1949, the Bloc populaire had functionally ceased to exist.