CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Who Was Robert Bourassa?

History, Social Studies, Political Science
1 lesson
To use online resources to explore the life and legacy of a political figure
In this introductory activity, students explore the life and career of Robert Bourassa.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Have students brainstorm individuals and events relating to Quebec's politics and history. Identify Robert Bourassa if students do not mention him. Record students' responses, then use them to create a word web indicating the effect of recent political events in Quebec on the rest of Canada. Ask: What impact have Quebec's political leaders, such as Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard, Jean Chrétien, Jean Charest, Bernard Landry, and Bourassa had on Canada as a whole?

Lead a discussion on the role of Quebec within Canada. Ask: Why do you think Quebecers are divided between remaining part of Canada or becoming an independent state? How important is Canadian unity to you? Explain that Robert Bourassa was a strong supporter of federalism and wanted Quebec to remain within Canada, as long as its distinct status within Confederation was recognized and protected.

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the topic Robert Bourassa: Political Survivor on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have students browse the site in any order they wish. Students should record their initial impressions of Bourassa and his importance in Quebec and Canadian politics, taking point-form notes that answer the question: "Who was Robert Bourassa?"

Use the following questions to focus a class discussion about Bourassa's importance as both a Quebecois and Canadian political leader.

  • What does the term "passionless politics" mean? In what ways was Bourassa a good example of this?
  • What does the term "political survivor" mean? In what ways was Bourassa a good example of this?
  • What was Bourassa's view about Quebec's place within Canada?
  • What major crises did Bourassa confront while premier of Quebec?
  • What do you think was Bourassa's greatest contribution to political life in Quebec or in Canada? Explain.

Revisit and Reflect

Have students discuss their view of the importance of Quebec as a part of Canada. What role do federalist political figures like Bourassa play in working toward national unity? How do their positions and actions contrast with those of prominent Quebec sovereigntist leaders (René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard)?


Students can write a one- to two-page paper stating what they think were Robert Bourassa's greatest achievements as a political leader and his most important contributions to Quebec and Canada.

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