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Pierre Bourgault

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 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 seven, 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. A famed and inflammatory orator, he led a number of union strikes and marches that resulted in violence. In 1964, he became leader of the RIN, and came up just short in the Duplessis riding of Northern Quebec. During the St. Jean Baptiste celebration in 1968, he and other supporters rioted and threw objects in the direction of newly minted Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He and 300 others were arrested for this incident, while Trudeau's stoic response significantly helped

In 1968, popular cabinet minister and television host René Lévesque founded Mouvement Souveraineté-Association, a more moderate sovereignist party that focused on civic nationalism rather than the more divisive ethnic nationalist vision promoted by Bourgeault. Lévesque rebuffed in an attempt to have the RIN included en masse, fearing the RIN's reputation for protests and violence would hurt the movement. Bourgeault disbanded the party and invited its members to join the MSA and the new Ralliement national in the newly founded Parti Québécois, under Lévesque's leadership.

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, who would become a close personal friend. Bourgault himself did not play any role in the PQ government that came to power in the 1976 Quebec election and was given a patronage appointment. He often quarreled with Lévesque, especially in the lead up to the 1980 referendum, in which he was a passionate participant, before leaving the PQ in the 1980s.

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.

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.

Bourgault was a fluent and eloquent

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