Rights and respect: A study of the competing concerns of Alliance Quebec and the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Stephen Koff


Ethnic conflict, Montreal, English-speakers, French-speakers

Subject Categories

Political Science | Sociology


The purpose of this dissertation is to contribute to the understanding of ethnic conflicts and the roles interest groups play in such disputes. Specifically, it focuses on the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal, a French Canadian nationalist organization, and Alliance Quebec, a pressure group organized to promote the interests of English-speakers in Quebec. It addresses the questions of how these organizations came to be, are organized, funded, and have been involved in the communal struggles in Quebec.

This is a qualitative study which employed interviews, participant-observation, and documentary evidence to focus on the conflicts between members of the two interest groups. The groups' historical perspectives as well as their views on the roles the French and English languages should have in Quebec, their concerns regarding immigration and the Quebec educational system, and their hopes or fears with respect to the prospect of Quebec sovereignty were compared and contrasted.

It was found that economic competition, resource mobilization, and environmental factors contribute to the emergence of conflicts between the two groups. However, the underlying causes are SSJBM members' desires to assure the long-term survival of the French language and culture in North America, and to gain respect by achieving sovereignty for Quebec so they will no longer be second class Canadians. Alliance Quebec members feel that some of the positions taken to advance these aims, such as advocating French only public signs, mandating French as the language of work, and barring the children of immigrants from English-language public schools, infringe on their rights to communicate in their own language and their prospects for economic prosperity.

There is some common ground shared by members of both groups. Many of their conflicts are not zero-sum. The ambiguity of the term sovereignty, the social construction and mutability of the two groups, as well as the cross-cutting characteristics shared by some members of the groups, admit possibilities for resolution of their conflicts.


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