CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: A Symposium on Robert Bourassa

History, Political Science
2 to 3 lessons
To investigate the interaction between a major political figure and the events with which he or she was involved during a specific historical period
Using a variety of web-based resources, students will prepare for and participate in a symposium on the major developments in the political history of Quebec from 1966 to 1996 and how these developments affected the rest of Canada. They will focus specifically on the role that Robert Bourassa played in these events as a significant political leader and premier.

Lesson Plan



Robert Bourassa was a key figure in the political history of Quebec and Canada from the 1960s to the 1990s. He was the youngest person ever to be elected premier of Quebec when he led his Liberals to victory in May 1970. A few months later, he found himself at the centre of the gravest internal security situation Canada ever faced, the October Crisis. Bourassa weathered that storm, but in 1976 was swept from power when his old nemesis René Lévesque led the pro-sovereignty Parti Québécois to victory in the provincial election.

Bourassa left politics for a few years, returning to his home province to campaign for the No side during the 1980 referendum on sovereignty-association. He returned to politics in 1983, regaining the Liberal leadership, and led his party to victory in 1985 and 1989.

The Task

Students will work in six groups to research, prepare, and participate in a symposium or round-table discussion on Bourassa's life, times, and contribution to the political life of Quebec and Canada. Assign each group one of the following topics:

  1. Bourassa's early years in Quebec politics, 1966-70, and the last phase of the "Quiet Revolution."
  2. Bourassa's 1970 election victory, the October Crisis, the Victoria constitutional talks (1971), and the struggle with the Common Front union movement in 1972.
  3. Bourassa's 1973 election victory, the introduction of Bill 22 (1974), and the problems his government faced before its defeat in the November 1976 election.
  4. The PQ government and the Quebec sovereignty-association referendum of 1980, and Bourassa's temporary departure from political life.
  5. Bourassa's political return in 1983 as Liberal leader, his election victories in 1985 and 1989, and his role in the Meech Lake constitutional accord negotiations.
  6. Bourassa's resignation from politics in 1994, his death in 1996, and his legacy as a Québécois and Canadian political leader.

Groups should focus on Bourassa's involvement in these events and his impact on them.

The Process

Groups should begin their research on the topic Robert Bourassa: Political Survivor on the CBC Digital Archives website. Groups can then expand their research to include other relevant resources. Each group will research and prepare a report to share during the symposium.


Invite students to discuss the political life and legacy of Bourassa and the importance of his role in some of the major events that took place in Quebec and Canada from the 1960s to the 1990s. Interested students could also prepare a research paper dealing with the topic they studied, relating Bourassa to the events they examined in their project, and evaluating his political legacy for his own province and for Canada.

Resources for this topic


Canada: A People's History. Episode 16: Years of Hope and Anger, 1964-1976. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2002: Marquise Lepage, dir.)
Canada: A People's History. Episode 17: In an Uncertain World, 1976-1990. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2002: Susan Dando, dir.)

Lisée, Jean-Francois. The Trickster: Robert Bourassa and the Quebecers, 1990-1992. Toronto: J. Lorimer, 1994.
MacDonald, L. Ian. From Bourassa to Bourassa: Wilderness to Restoration. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 2002.
Mathews, Georges. The Quiet Resolution: Quebec's Challenge to Canada. Toronto: Summerhill Press, 1990.
Vastel, Michel. Bourassa. Toronto: Macmillan Canada, 1991.


Related Content

Quebec City: 400 Years of History

The Algonquin called it Québec, or "where the river narrows." On a rocky point high above the ...

Robert Bourassa: Political Survivor

Robert Bourassa made history in 1970 by becoming the youngest premier of Quebec, only to suffe...

The Ice Storm of 1998

Canadians had never before endured a natural disaster like the ice storm of 1998. A difficult ...

Hockey Flight in Canada: extra clips

Canada is a hockey nation, but has had a heck of a time preventing its hockey franchises from ...

René Lévesque's Separatist Fight

In the 1960s, René Lévesque made the prospect of a separate Quebec a reality. A shrewd politic...

Getting the Games: Canada's Olympic Bids, ext...

It might be the most ruthless of all Olympic competitions: the race for the right to host the ...