Pierre Bourgault

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Pierre Bourgault (January 23, 1934 – June 16, 2003) was a politician and essayist of Norman-Breton origin, as well as an actor and journalist, from Quebec, Canada. He is most famous as a public speaker who advocated sovereignty for Quebec from Canada.


Bourgault (pronounced Bour-go) was born in East Angus in the Estrie (Eastern Townships) region of Quebec. His father was a civil servant and his mother, a homemaker. His parents sent him to boarding school at age 7, determined that he should receive the education which they lacked. After secondary school, he briefly attended the seminary and entertained the idea of a possible entry into the priesthood, per ancestral tradition, but reneged on his obligation shortly thereafter. He is today entombed within the traditionally Catholic Notre Dame cemetery in Montreal.

Beginning in the early 1960s, he supported Quebec independence from Canada and in 1960 helped found the pro-independence Rassemblement pour l'indépendance nationale. He participated a number of union strikes and marches that resulted in violence. In 1964, he became leader of the RIN. In 1968, he disbanded the RIN and invited its members to join René Lévesque's Mouvement Souveraineté-Association and the Ralliement national in the newly founded Parti Québécois, under Lévesque's leadership. During the St. Jean Baptiste celebration in 1968, he and other supporters rioted and threw objects in the direction of Pierre Trudeau. He and 300 others were arrested for this incident. In the 1970 Quebec election, he was the Parti Québécois candidate in Mercier electoral district, running unsuccessfully against Liberal leader (and soon-to-be Premier) Robert Bourassa.

Bourgault himself did not play any role in the PQ government that came to power in the 1976 Quebec election, and often quarreled with Lévesque before leaving the PQ in the 1980s. Some say that he sacrificed his own political career to unite pro-sovereignty forces.

In his early life, he was a journalist at Montreal newspaper La Presse, and he returned to this publication in the 1990s as a columnist for Le Journal de Montréal newspaper. After 1976, he was a professor of communications at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). He was also the co-host or regular columnist of several radio shows aired on la Société Radio-Canada, the French language sector of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Despite their political differences, he had a solid friendship with Robert Bourassa, an ardent defender of the French language

A fiery speaker and apt persuader, it was once estimated that he had given 4,000 speeches in his life. Most of these speeches have been lost to posterity since he did not write them down.

He was openly gay, though he said in an interview for Radio-Canada a few years before his death that in his later years he chose to stop having sexual relations.

Despite his fervent attempts to dislodge Quebec from Canada, he was a fluent and eloquent speaker of English. For a brief period in the 1980s, he was a weekly columnist for Montreal's anglophone daily, The Gazette.


Quebec general election, 1970: Mercier
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Liberal Robert Bourassa 15,337 46.65 +2.38
     Parti Québécois Pierre Bourgault 12,276 37.34 -
Union Nationale Conrad Touchette 4,145 12.61 -29.71
     Ralliement créditiste Clément Patry 1,011 3.08 -
     Independent Paul Ouellet 106 0.32 -
Source: Official Results, Le Directeur général des élections du Québec.


  • Québec quitte ou double, 1970
  • Oui à l'indépendance du Québec, 1977
  • Le plaisir de la liberté, 1983
  • Écrits polémiques 1960-1981, 1989
  • Moi, je m'en souviens, 1989
  • Maintenant ou jamais, entretiens, 1990
  • La politique. Écrits polémiques, 1996



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