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Cité Libre, Pierre Trudeau’s influential little magazine

The Story

When the host of CBC Soundings described Cité Libre as a "little" magazine, he wasn't far off the mark. The French-language, political magazine - co-founded by Pierre Trudeau and Gérard Pelletier - had a tiny circulation of 2,500, but was highly influential. Cité Libre was the only voice in Quebec openly criticizing the corrupt rule of Premier Maurice Duplessis. Ten men put up $25 each to publish 500 copies of Cité Libre's first issue in 1950. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Soundings
Broadcast Date: Aug. 8, 1963
Guest(s): Gérard Pelletier, Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Host: Michael Oliver
Duration: 6:01

Did You know?

• One of first pieces Trudeau wrote for Cité Libre was an essay titled "Why I am an anti-clerical." In it Trudeau attacked religious institutions for meddling in non-spiritual issues.
• Pelletier and Trudeau first met when they were both 19 and studying in Paris. Trudeau was studying at the École des sciences politiques.

• In 1949, Pierre Trudeau went to Ottawa as an economic adviser to the Privy Council. He returned to Montreal every weekend to work on Cité Libre. After his stint in Ottawa, Trudeau worked as a labour lawyer and law professor. He also travelled throughout Quebec and to political science conferences in Africa, Europe, the Soviet Union and China.

• Pelletier first introduced Trudeau to René Lévesque, a popular TV journalist, at the CBC cafeteria in Montreal. When Pelletier asked Lévesque, to write for Cité Libre, Trudeau responded without looking at Lévesque, "Yeah, but can he write?" Lévesque called it a taste of "Pierre Trudeau arrogance." (New Yorker, 1969)

• Quebec became increasingly divided between separatists like René Lévesque and federalists like Trudeau and Pelletier, which led to Cité Libre's demise in 1966.
• In 1991 Cité Libre was revived, with Trudeau's blessing, to promote Canadian national unity in Quebec. An English-language version also called Cité Libre launched in 1998. The last issue of both was in 2000.

• Maurice Duplessis was Quebec premier from 1936-1939 and from 1944-1959.


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