Poverty, illness and crime through time

Quebec's methods for managing social problems have had a rich and turbulent history. The Centre d'histoire des régulations sociales (Centre for the History of Social Regulation), directed by Jean-Marie Fecteau from Université du Québec à Montréal, has undertaken a systematic study to document the appearance and development, from the 19th century until the dawn of the Quiet Revolution, of a social logic of regulation that addresses three major social problems: poverty, illness and crime.

An extensive examination of institutional, governmental and private documents, along with a study of the penal and health and social services systems in their earliest forms, has led to four fundamental observations. First of all, the Centre remarked that Quebec society's response to these problems corresponds to the responses of other western countries during the same period. Nevertheless, the development of methods for social regulation in Quebec was greatly affected by confessional separation and, on the part of the Catholic establishment, by the special place accorded to institutions of confinement.

This study of the Quebec experience also demonstrates the profoundly political nature of the choices that directed the system's development. Finally, the research shows the central role of the social elite and, above all, the importance of the popular and community response in the historical development of social policy.

The researchers have published various works that enrich our knowledge of the history of social intervention in Quebec, including La naissance du tribunal pour enfants – Une comparaison France-Québec (Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009), Fous, prodigues et ivrognes : familles et déviances au Québec au XIXe siècle (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007), Une toupie sur la tête : visages de la folie à Saint-Jean-de-Dieu (Boréal, 2007) and "Nous protégeons l'infortune" – Les origines populaires de l'économie sociale au Québec (VLB, 2007).


Centre d'histoire des régulations sociales


Jean-Marie Fecteau, Université du Québec à Montréal

Regular members

  • Louise Bienvenue, Université de Sherbrooke 
  • Guy Cucumel, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Jean-Philippe Garneau, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Janice Harvey, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Thierry Nootens, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières 
  • Martin Petitclerc, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Jean Trépanier, Université de Montréal