What motivated you to start working on this project?
GL: I wanted to go back and analyze why René Lévesque brought up this idea of sovereignty-association for Québec, as part of a union with the rest of Canada. More importantly, I wanted to look at how René Lévesque perceived the world as a war correspondent during WWII for the American army, as a journalist at Radio-Canada and as politician. These experiences make him certainly the most international Prime Minister that Québec never had.
Tell us about the research involved.
GL: I searched archives from Radio-Canada, the Ministry of International Affairs and Lévesque’s personal files to find all his speeches, conferences and documents related to his perception of world crises. An anthology of these findings will be published in the next year.
What will people learn about René Lévesque they might not have known before? What did you learn?
GL: Lévesque was certainly perceived as the most North-American Premier of Québec because he was fascinated by American society. He admired Roosevelt and his New Deal. He was truly an internationalist, in the vein of De Gaulle and Churchill. He was also critical of the USA when it came to issues like Vietnam, segregation and inequalities issues we still face today.
I learned more about his deep-rooted conviction that policies should respond to people’s needs. He was always concerned about the economic situation of minorities in the world.
Finally, what relevance do you think the lessons of René Lévesque’s life have to today’s political climate in Quebec?
GL: Problems are complex but there is always a way to find a solution if there is a clear dialogue with citizens. Lévesque did not have an elitist approach towards politics – although he was not populist, either. Rather, his attitude was that the right of the people to express themselves must be recognized. The Wilsonian concept of self-determination Lévesque embraced must be re-evaluated in the context of globalization.