Separatism gets a leader with René Lévesque
In the 1960s, René Lévesque made the prospect of a separate Quebec a reality. A shrewd politician, he gathered enough support to start the first sovereignty party Canadians took seriously. The Parti Québécois thrived because of his hard work, charm and democratic approach. In an era when some preferred to use firebombs to get their point across, Lévesque wanted Quebecers to vote on separation. Although the Quebec premier lost his 13-year fight after the 1980 referendum, he is remembered for winning countless other victories for francophones.
But as he explains in this CBC clip, Lévesque's version of independence doesn't mean total separation from Canada.
• The editorial read: "Lévesque alone offered the authority, popularity and experience to unite the narrow chapels; only he could make separatism electorally respectable."
• Lévesque's idea of independence did not mean separating all aspects of Quebec life from the country.
• Lévesque's called this "sovereignty-association:" an arrangement giving Quebec political independence but continuing an economic relationship with the rest of Canada. He believed the Canadian dollar should remain the provincial currency and wanted free passage across the borders.
• Another separatist party called Rassemblement pour l'Independance Nationale (RIN) competed for members with Lévesque's sovereignty-association movement.
• One of RIN's top officials travelled to France to discuss the idea of separation with President Charles de Gaulle who supported an independent Quebec.
• By 1968 many RIN members had "double citizenship" with RIN and the Mouvement.
• By October 1968 the Mouvement had reorganized into the Parti Québécois with members from RIN. A month later the PQ had already raised $19,000 and boasted 30,000 members.
• The PQ's founding convention drafted a number of resolutions. It identified its opposition to NATO and NORAD and said it would withdraw from any Cold War alignment.
• The PQ also demanded provincial control over its schools, broadcast networks and arts and culture. Newspapers would have to run articles promoting French culture, and English-language schools would be reduced to 20 per cent. Levesque
Program: The Way It Is
Broadcast Date: April 21, 1968
Guest(s): René Lévesque
Host: John Saywell
Last updated: February 13, 2014
Page consulted on February 13, 2014
All Clips from this Topic
René Lévesque gets grilled by two astute journalists.
In 1966, the language prejudice is palpable.
His separatist fight doesn't help French speakers in New Brunswick, sa...
Lévesque announces the beginning of a new political movement.
Lévesque is fed up with English Canada.
PQ leader says democratic forms of separatism falsely portrayed as "te...
The PQ leader discusses a variety of topics at this Saskatchewan press...
Mary Lou Finlay asks Lévesque about smoking, hectic schedule.
Bill 101 could make French the official language of business in the pr...
Lévesque grows up with "bootstrap nationalism."
Hugh MacLennan says the St. Lawrence River is the imperial gateway of ...
Chrétien discusses Lévesque's departure after 21 years.
Montrealers react to the death of "a great man."
Quebec premier tells New York businessmen that separation is inevitabl...
An emotional René Lévesque, leader of the separatist Parti Québécois, ...
A majority win for Parti Québécois stuns the nation in 1976.
In the 1960s, René Lévesque made the prospect of a separate Quebec a r...