Lesson Plan: A Symposium on Robert Bourassa
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.
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:
- Bourassa's early years in Quebec politics, 1966-70, and the last phase of the "Quiet Revolution."
- Bourassa's 1970 election victory, the October Crisis, the Victoria constitutional talks (1971), and the struggle with the Common Front union movement in 1972.
- 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.
- The PQ government and the Quebec sovereignty-association referendum of 1980, and Bourassa's temporary departure from political life.
- 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.
- Bourassa's resignation from politics in 1994, his death in 1996, and his legacy as a Quebecois and Canadian political leader.
Groups should focus on Bourassa's involvement in these events and his impact on them.
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.