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Is Higher Trust A Legacy Of Quebec’s Catholic Past?

Silvie Letendre

My colleagues at Proof Inc. conduct a study each year called the CanTrust Index on what Canadians trust. This year, we at Capital Image chose to work more closely with Proof to bolster the polling in Quebec so we could learn more about how trust might differ in la belle province. And not surprisingly, we found – in true Quebecer fashion – that what, and how, we trust is distinctly different from the rest of the country.

A couple of generations ago, the only thing most Quebecers needed to trust – and did – was the Roman Catholic Church. From that stemmed their trust in most of society’s major institutions: government, social services, family, and even commerce. It was a trust that seemed eternal and went unquestioned.

The Quiet Revolution of the 1960’s changed all that. Over the last half-century, Quebec has been transformed in many ways, and arguably more so than any other area of Canada. Our “distinct society” can now be considered the most liberal and secular in the country.

For example, Quebec has by far the lowest rate of marriage in Canada (just over a third of Quebec adults are married versus half in Ontario)[1]. Married women in Quebec do not take on their husband’s last name, and twice as many couples live in common-law partnerships when compared to the Canadian average. Quebec’s rate is even higher than Sweden’s.[2] While 75% in Quebec still say they are nominally Catholic, only 11% attend services and only two-to-four per cent in Montreal.[3]

With all that change, what happened to the trust that was built on the foundation of a once-strong church?

Rather remarkably, despite all this change and social upheaval, the 2018 CanTrust Index discovered that Quebecers are in important ways the most trusting in Canada. No longer trusting in the church, but rather in the new temples of secular society: corporations, information sources and new technologies such as artificial intelligence.

For example, the 2018 CanTrust Index shows that 42% of Quebecers trust large businesses, much higher than the 28% trust score recorded across Canada. Trust in small and mid-size companies is even higher at 59%, and up from last year’s 55%. This higher trust perhaps stems from the economic benefits seen in recent decades from the large successful Quebec businesses of which most Quebecers are very proud, such as Desjardins, Hydro-Québec, and Bombardier.

But perhaps it is also the legacy of trust in large institutions being able to drive society forward that comes naturally from Quebec’s past. It’s interesting to note that the trust level for Bombardier, which has had its share of recent challenges, remains much higher in Quebec than in the rest of Canada (51% vs. 36%).

As for information sources, Quebecers’ trust in web-based editorial content has increased from 41% in the 2016 CanTrust Index to 47% this year, significantly higher than 41% for Canada as a whole and 40% for Ontario. Trust of content on corporate websites is 52% in Quebec versus 42% in Ontario and trust of online advertising is 36% in Quebec versus 24% in Ontario.

Quebecers also trust new technology, such as artificial intelligence, with 47% saying AI will positively contribute to the economy, compared to 39% in Canada as a whole and 37% in Ontario. Perhaps a society that has benefited so much from transformation in recent decades is more is willing to embrace a continuation of the process through new technology?

The key takeaway for people who want to do business in Quebec is this: know your audience. While that advice is no different than for anywhere else, it’s especially crucial to never assume that what works for the rest of Canada will also work for Quebec.

Successful companies understand these nuances. A good example is the thought Shoppers Drug Mart put into their roll-out of stores in Quebec. Something as basic as using the name Pharmaprix immediately earned trust by reflecting the values Quebecers hold strong.   Customizing their programs to meet the unique needs of Quebecers further built that trust.

Understanding and respecting our differences is an excellent first step to building trust in Quebec.

Trust me.


[1] Milan A, Marital Status: Overview 2011, Statistics Canada, July 2013, accessed at
[2] Canadian Encyclopedia, Common-Law Unions in Canada, accessed at
[3] The Economist, Quebec and Catholicism: Why Francophone Canada is so post-Catholic a place, Sept. 23, 2016, accessed at