René Lévesque

René Lévesque

René Lévesque

René Lévesque was a reporter, actor, Quebec government minister, founder of the Parti Québécois, and the 23rd Premier of Quebec. Born on August 24, 1922, at Hôtel Dieu Hospital at Hôtel Dieu Hospital in Campbellton.

He was an actor, known for ‘Les lumières de ma ville‘ (1950), ‘À la croisée des chemins‘ (1943) and ‘Man of America‘ (1956). He was married to Corinne Côté-Lévesque and Louise L’Heureux. 

Les lumières de ma ville

Lévesque attended Séminaire de Gaspé and Saint-Charles-Garnier College in Quebec City before studying law at Université Laval, though he left without completing his degree.

Lévesque worked as a radio announcer and news writer, and later as a liaison officer and war correspondent for the U.S. Army during World War II. He continued his journalistic career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, covering international events and labor struggles. He gained fame in Quebec as the host of a weekly television news program, Point de Mire.

René Lévesque

During 1944–1945, he served as a liaison officer and war correspondent for the U.S. Army in Europe. He reported from London while it was under regular bombardment by the Luftwaffe, and advanced with the Allied troops as they pushed back the German army through France and Germany. Throughout the war, he made regular journalistic reports on the airwaves and in print. He was with the first unit of Americans to reach Dachau concentration camp.

In 1947, he married Louise L’Heureux, with whom he would have two sons and a daughter. Lévesque worked as a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s French Language section in the international service. He again served as a war correspondent for CBC in the Korean War in 1952. After that, he was offered a career in journalism in the United States, but decided to stay in Quebec. 

Lévesque interviews Lester B. Pearson in Moscow for Radio-Canada in 1955
Lévesque interviews Lester B. Pearson in Moscow for Radio-Canada in 1955

Lévesque covered international events and major labour struggles between workers and corporations that dogged the Union Nationale government of premier Maurice Duplessis culminating with a great strike in 1957 at the Gaspé Copper Mine in Murdochville. The Murdochville strike was a milestone for organized labour in Quebec as it resulted in changes to the province’s labour laws.

While working for the public television network, he became personally involved in the broadcasters’ strike that lasted 68 tumultuous days beginning in late 1958. Lévesque was arrested during a demonstration in 1959.

Entering politics in 1960, Lévesque was elected as a Liberal Party member in the Legislative Assembly of Quebec. After leaving the Liberal Party, he founded the Mouvement Souveraineté-Association, which later became the Parti Québécois in 1968. Lévesque and his party won a landslide victory in the 1976 election, and he became Premier of Quebec shortly after.

Known for his tact and charm, as well as his small stature and ever-present cigarette, Lévesque was a passionate defender of his beliefs and ideals. He passed away on November 1, 1987, and was buried in the cemetery of Saint-Michel parish in Sillery, Quebec City.

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