By the end of the 19th century, most of the farmland in the St. Lawrence Valley was already occupied, and farmers were having a hard time finding new land. Finding employment was also difficult. For these reasons, many French Canadians emigrated to the New England region of the United States to find jobs. The Church was very concerned about this emigration that threatened to empty the Quebec countryside. It launched an extensive colonization program in certain regions to provide an alternative for people looking for work.
It was the Catholic priests and bishops who planned the colonization of several regions. The most famous among them was Father Labelle, who oversaw the colonization of the Laurentians. Colonization companies sold lands to colonists at low prices. In exchange, colonists had to build a house, live in it and clear part of the land. Since the land sold to colonists was not very good and the climate in remote areas was not conducive to farming, few colonists managed to make a living off the land. They could barely meet the needs of their families.
Regions opened by colonization
Colonization closely followed the forest industry because colonists often had to work in logging camps in the winter to support their families. As a result, regions like Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Abitibi and the Laurentians were cleared by the colonization movement. Even though it was not possible to develop agriculture in most of these regions, they had been cleared and were now ready for the industries that would one day eventually arrive.