While every Canadian province has its own quirks, Quebec in particular is known to be very different from the rest of Canada with its own unique culture and a lot of tension between the francophone majority and the anglophone and allophone minorities. The main reason for this tension can be explained by its socio-religious history
The first Europeans to settle in Quebec were French. After France ceded ownership of Canada to England in 1763, anglophones became the majority settlers and, until the mid-1900s, they held most of the power in business and politics. Today, French Quebecers tend to be afraid of losing their culture to the influence of the rest of largely anglophone North America.
The French settlers were strongly Catholic, and the Catholic Church had very strong control over the francophone population of Quebec from the beginning until the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. As a result, since the 1960s, the Quebecois have been strongly secular, resenting even the implication of any religious influence in the public sphere.
While both English and French are official languages in Canada, Quebec’s only official language is French, and it can be difficult to access services in English. Quebecers also tend to be very distrustful of anything Christian and try to keep any form of religion out of public life. Quebecers are usually very proud of their culture - while Canada places a strong value on multiculturalism, Quebec values its identity more.
Numbers to call in case of emergency:
- 9-1-1 is for crime, fire, accidents. This is the number to call to have police, the fire department, or an ambulance sent to you.
- 8-1-1 is the provincial healthcare hotline. You can call this number if you’re unsure how serious a health issue is or whether you need to call an ambulance or go to the hospital.
- 1-800-463-5060 is for the Anti-poison centre. This is the number to call if someone has ingested a poisonous substance.
- 2-1-1 is for finding community services. They also have a website here.
Agreements and Purchases - Verbal agreements hold no official weight in Canada, so always make sure you have a paper trail to help you avoid scams. Never pay cash for anything important (lawyer, apartment, services, large purchases), and/or make sure to get a receipt. Get agreements in writing and signed.
French - Learning French is important for living in Quebec. While you can often get by without it in Montreal, not speaking French will make it much more difficult to find a job and to access government services. There are places that offer French courses for free. Depending on your situation, the government may offer financial assistance. You can find more information on that here.
Taxes - If you’re coming from a country where purchases are not taxed or where taxes are included in the advertised price, be aware that all non-essential items in Canada are taxed when you buy them, and the tax is added at check-out, not included in the price. Essential items such as most unprepared foods, however, are not taxed.
Quebec has a large variety of grocery stores including big chains, local markets and family-owned stores, as well as many international markets where you may find familiar foods from your home country. Many grocery stores have weekly flyers that will help you get an idea of what's available at that store and what foods are discounted that week. You can find these flyers online on the store website or in apps that collect flyers.
You can also check out this guide to groceries for more information.
- Quebec has an online guide to apartment hunting
- Concordia University has a helpful apartment guide for students
- Tenants in Canada have certain rights, although it can vary between provinces. You can find helpful information for Quebec on Montreal's website here
- Always ask what’s included: appliances and air conditioning often are not.
- When a listing says heating isn’t included, what it means is that you, not the landlord, will pay for heating, but every home has some kind of heating system installed.
All Quebec residents must have some kind of health insurance. If it's not provided by the employer, the province provides basic coverage. You can find more information on health insurance as a newcomer here.
- Clinics: Quebec has a system of clinics (CLSCs) to go to for routine tests and medical services. If you don't have health coverage, an option is the Clinic for Migrants with Precarious Status
- Dental Care: If dental care isn't covered under your insurance plan, there are some free clinics, such as the Jim Lund Dental Clinic
- Mental Health: https://santemontreal.qc.ca/en/public/support-and-services/mental-health/