Robert Bourassa Essay, Research Paper
October 20, 1996
Robert Bourassa died at 5:45am on Wednesday, October9th on the eighth floor of the Midtown Montreal Hospital.Bourassa was 63,and succumbed to malignant melanoma cancer. He was a skilled politician and strategist to some, but to most was just a nuisance. He had been a fixture on this country’s political terrain for the most part of the last three decades and will not be easily forgotten.
Robert Bourassa was the son of a minor federal government functionary, and grew up in modest conditions in Montreal’s east end. He began to display an outstanding ability, and studied law at The University of Montreal, then winning a Rhodes scholarship to attend Oxford and a Ford Foundation grant sent him to Harvard.Along the way, he met and married Andree Simard, a woman from one of Quebec’s richest families. Bourassa arose from near anonymity to becoming The youngest Premier in Quebec’s history at an age of 36.During his first two terms in office from 1970-1976,Bourassa’s government conceived and established the first of the massive schemes to harness the hydroelectric power of James Bay.Their government also introduced restrictive language legislation in Quebec, and set the trend for all that followed. Bourassa also dealt with The October Crisis, (when Front de Liberation du Quebec Terrorists kidnapped provincial labour minister Pierre Laporte and James Cross, a British trade commissioner. Cross was eventually freed but Laporte was killed.) Bourassa was also premier during the failed Victoria, Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional negotiations and the 1990 native standoff in Oka.”He is a man who marked Quebec’s history,” Bouchard said. Bourassa was present for the first election of the Provincial Parti-Quebecois government, an event that not only drove him out of office, but right out of the country. His political resurrection in 1983 has become the stuff of legend in Quebec.The most critical event in Bourassa’s long career, however occurred in 1990 at a quaint small lakeside village just west of Montreal.The standoff between Mohawk Warriors and Quebec Police took a small toll in the fate that overtook him last week. He chose to postpone treatment of cancer that had appeared on his back in order to stay on the job during Oka.This decision may have accelerated his death. It also insured that Quebecers would think respectfully of him. Bourassa seemed to be ageless, at 62 his dark hair only slightly touched by grey, he looked a decade younger. He always liked to laugh, even when the target of humour was himself, he was comfortable with Anglophones, but never with the English language.
He repeatedly mispronounced certain words by emphasizing the wrong syllable, Sometimes serious discussions provoked snickering when he talked, But Bourassa invariably had the last laugh. An excellent example of this was his comeback in 1983 after he was pronounced politically dead in 1976.He tried to offer himself up as a candidate to then-Liberal Leader Claude Ryan in the 1981 election. And Ryan rejected him saying:”I would rather lose without you than win with you.”Bourassadid not hold a grudge and made him a senior minister in his own cabinet after he won the 1985 election. He also gave work to Pierre Bourgault in the late 1980s when no one else would, and named Jacques Parizeau to a municipal commission in the mid 1980s. Bourassa’s commitment to Canada was something many people debated, he took part in three constitutional negotiations, and twice signed agreements that would have bound Quebec more than ever to Canada, as well as speaking strongly on the behalf of Canada in two referendums. Robert Bourrassa got a fond farewell on Monday as politicians and regular quebecers packed Notre Dame Basilica while thousands listened outside the service, The atmosphere, like himself was subdued. Most onlookers watched quietly, with no show of great emotion. Prime Minister Chretien, Lucien Bouchard, and Jean Charest were among the mourners at the service. Saskatchewan Premier, Roy Romonov said this: “a very civil, decent man, far from his public image.”Former Ontario Premier, Bill Davis said this:”One of the finer men I’ve come to know in my public life”Bourassa spent much of his political career promoting distinct society status for Quebec.Bourassa’s passing was such huge news in Quebec that commentators used this opportunity to show how Quebec differs from their neighbours (Former Ontario Premier) John Robarts killed himself and he didn’t get that much attention.
In the end Bourassa lost to cancer, But was strong, when he died his face was relaxed and peacefull. He appeared to be in no doubt of the nature of his journey, Doctors could no longer control the cancer that had spread from his skin to his brain, “There was a period of hesitancy
and then calm.”Doctor Ayoub said “it was at this moment he told me” ‘Now we are going to fight the big fight, I’m ready.’” His last hours were without suffering. It does not matter how he was remembered by anyone person, but how he influenced things in this country.
Robert Bourassa 1933-1996 By Jordan Bruins