- Wildlife, Conservation, and Conflict in Quebec, 1840–1914 by Darcy Ingram
Quebec, Darcy Ingram tells us, is unique in North American conservation history. No other jurisdiction came close to the proliferation of private sporting clubs and associations with the extensive, exclusive entitlements that prevailed there. Moreover, unlike in other jurisdictions, government authorities encouraged a largely privatized system of environmental management, one in which game associations, composed largely of upper-and middle-class urban sportsmen, would lease angling and hunting territories and would, in turn, be responsible for developing and executing the conservation policies. The size of some of these territories is staggering – some over nine hundred square kilometres each – and by the 1960s they numbered over 1500, cumulatively locking up the best of Quebec’s gaming areas. In sum, Wildlife, Conservation, and Conflict in Quebec, 1840–1914, part of ubc Press’s Nature | History | Society series, is a deft blend of political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental history that traces the establishment and entrenchment of la belle province’s particular, if also peculiar, system of fish and wildlife management.
Ingram’s characterization of the situation in Quebec hinges on the concept of “patrician culture,” and his central argument is that “the system of wildlife conservation that developed in Quebec . . . was the product of a segment of society that sought actively and in broad terms to improve the world in which they lived . . . and that, ultimately, gave the wildlife conservation movement its unique form within the province” (7). Accordingly, part 1 of Ingram’s book identifies and describes the “patrician moment” – roughly the 1840s to 1870s – when an associational network of mostly British and Scottish upper- and middle-class men committed to progress, conservation, and improvement of both nature and society inserted themselves into the state legislation structure. Part 2 then describes how this patrician system embedded itself so firmly that, despite ongoing opposition and a changing conservation movement interested mostly in economic [End Page 136] development and land acquisition, it would form the principal means of governance for fishing and hunting territories for over a century, with only the weight of the Quiet Revolution and the 1976 election of the Parti Québécois capable of disrupting it.
This is not to say that everything worked out the way either sportsmen or the province intended. Ingram details what could, and did, go wrong; as his book’s title denotes, conflict marked much of this history. Sporting clubs and associations faced opposition from locals who found their non-recreational resource use suddenly made illegal. They resented conservationist lessees who used altruistic language to rationalize that locals, often lower-class or Aboriginal, would benefit more from employment in other pursuits, notably working for the very game clubs and associations that displaced them. Especially notable is Ingram’s coverage of dissention from within the movement. As Quebec’s best fishing and hunting territories were enfolded into the lease system, many sportsmen found themselves outside of the social network of protective clubs and game associations, locked out of what they perceived to be a feudal system. Still, Ingram’s analysis could have benefitted from a wider reading of similar works on resistance. For instance, he attributes rural poachers dressing themselves in blackface, like their counterparts in England, to hide their identities. Ingram neglects the deeper, performative, and transformative meaning of “dressing up” as a different race or the opposite sex when committing illegal acts, which, scholars such as Philip J. Deloria in Playing Indian argues, actually had little to do with disguise.
Wildlife, Conservation, and Conflict in Quebec deserves serious attention from environmental historians as well as those interested in Quebec’s English–French and class relations. By drawing upon a rich research base, including government records, newspapers, sporting magazines, and a treasure trove of angling and hunting association and club records, Ingram challenges us to reconceptualize the importance of transnational connections, class, ethnicity, and gender in defining conservation activities in North America and the colonization of Quebec. The links Ingram traces between ideas of fish and wildlife...